Facebook unveils major changes at f8 conference

During Facebook's annual f8 conference today CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed an all-new, completely redesigned profile including the "Timeline" to better describe who you are and what you're interested in. Facebook will also introduce better app integration across the platform and we'll be seeing changes to the "Like" button as well.

So what are these changes all about and how soon can we expect to see them hit the iPhone app?

Timeline

Currently, each profile contains status updates and user activity in a static timeline with an "endless scroll" effect, requiring users who view your profile to scroll down continuously to see what you've been up to recently and in the past. This process can be time consuming if you're looking for an older post or want to show friends interesting events from your past.

The profile changes include a new "Timeline" feature going back through your entire history on Facebook, even reaching back in time to before Facebook existed by letting you add information from the day you were born. Users can fill their backstory from before Facebook was created so friends can see when you've moved in the past, ended a relationship or got your first car from way back in the day.

Facebook describes the new Timeline as "The story of your life".

  • All your stories
  • All your apps
  • A new way to express who you are

Timeline essentially makes it easier for users to focus in on a specific window of time to get a good snapshot of your activity during that period in your life. Users will have more fluid control over their profiles and the ability to customize their own Timelines to reflect their personalities and lifestyles. You can determine how prominent or subtle any past story is displayed on your Timeline by adding a star to it, formatting the post in widescreen for more prominence within your profile.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the Timeline feature as I like to have full control and ownership over my profile and what my friends can see. It will be up to Facebook to make sure there's enough customization available to users before I can pass judgement, but Timeline is definitely one of the biggest changes Facebook has made since it launched and was one of the focus areas in today's f8 announcement.

Apps will play a larger role

Facebook apps in general will be getting Timeline integration too, letting users drop apps directly into their Timeline for display on the main profile. Apps will also be more socially integrated and hold a larger presence throughout Facebook, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how developers use the new app resources.

App "Reports" will also let you dive into the Timeline of any app so you can see the different ways you've been using apps at any point in the past. Want to see how many crops you harvested last summer, or how many Vampires you've slain this month? I think you get the point...

It will be interesting to see how the Facebook platform grows with the added benefits to app developers and the overall larger role that apps will play going forward. I could see this as more of a distraction than an added benefit, but you may think otherwise depending on the different ways you use Facebook.

"Like" is now a verb

Facebook's well-known "Like" button that we've all grown to love (or hate) will also be getting an upgrade, where instead of just "liking" a book or a movie you can now say you've "read" a book or "watched" a movie.

The Like button will be evolving over time and adding additional verbs to open up a wide-range of possibilities. Facebook apps will also be able to tap into this new "Like as a Verb" functionality to help users better express their interests.

Open Graph

Facebook has partnered up with the likes of Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG and Rdio to integrate music directly into your profile page through Open Graph. Anything you Like or add to your profile can be played when your friends visit your page or check out your interests right from within the profile, fully integrated, and it's completely free. Spotify currently touts 15 million tracks available, which Facebook users will have full access to just by Liking a song.

They've also teamed up with Netflix, Hulu, Blockbuster (wha?!) and a number of other video content providers to fill your profile with your favorite shows and videos. Netflix will not be available to Facebook users in the US initially, giving all the goods to Canada and Latin America until a certain US law that "creates some confusion over our ability to allow U.S. members to share what they watch" is sorted out.

So what about the iPhone app?

That's a quick rundown of some of the bigger changes announced today with most of the updates being rolled out over the next couple of months. But where does the iPhone come in?

Facebook iPhone changes

The added functionality to the "Like" button relies on HTML5 technology, so a simple backend update to the Facebook for iPhone app could easily include the new features across the service from within the app. Same goes for the Timeline, which could be displayed in a similar layout to the desktop thanks to the Retina Display on the iPhone 4 -- at least in landscape orientation.

Open Graph is a different story, where complications like contracts and complex agreements come into place from music and content owners preventing users from fully enjoying what they love. There also may be technical limitations that prevent playback features from crossing over to the native iPhone app, especially with video from partners who don't have their content setup in the right format.

We'll have to wait and see exactly which changes ultimately make it to the Facebook for iPhone app, since recent changes like Top Stories have already been pushed while other features like the new activity ticker are still (and thankfully so) tied to the desktop browser.

There's just one thing I'm still left wondering about after today's f8 announcement -- when the heck is Facebook going to release that long-rumored iPad app?!

[Facebook]