As we predicted, Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote at the f8 conference in San Francisco Thursday introduced some of the most profound changes seen on Facebook since its inception. So many changes, in fact, that it can be hard to keep track. So here’s a handy-dandy guide.
1. You’re going to get a Timeline — a scrapbook of your life. In a complete overhaul of its ever-evolving profile page, Facebook is introducing Timeline. This is a stream of information about you — the photos you’ve posted, all your status updates, the apps you’ve used, even the places you’ve visited on a world map — that scrolls all the way back to your birth. It encourages you to post more stuff about your past, such as baby pictures, using Facebook as a scrapbook.
The further back in Timeline you go, the more Facebook will compress the information so that you’re only seeing the most interesting parts of your history. You can customize this by clicking on a star next to a status, say, or enlarging a picture.
Timeline is in beta now, and will be opt-in to start. In the long run, it will become the new default profile page.
2. You don’t have to just Like something — now you can [verb] any [noun]. Remember when all you could do to something on Facebook — a video, a comment, a product, a person — was Like it? Pretty soon that’s going to seem laughably antiquated. The social network has launched Facebook Gestures, which means that Facebook’s partners and developers can turn any verb into a button.
So you’ll start seeing the option to tell the world you’re Reading a particular book, for example, or Watching a given movie, or Listening to a certain tune. In turn, as many observers have pointed out, this is likely to lead to an explosion of oversharing — and far more information on your friends’ activities showing up in your news feed than you probably cared to know.
3. Facebook apps need only ask permission once to share stories on your behalf. Although not as big a deal as the Timeline, this tweak may be one of the more controversial. Previously, apps had to ask every time they shared information about you in your profile. Now, the first time you authorize the app, it will tell you what it’s going to share about you. If you’re cool with that, the app never has to ask you again.
But you don’t have to worry about this app stuff clogging your news feed, because …
4. All “lightweight” information is going to the Ticker. Status updates, photos from a wedding or a vacation, changes in relationship status: these are the kinds of things you want to see from your friends when you look at your news feed. Who killed whom in Mafia Wars? Who planted what in FarmVille? Not so much. So that kind of trivial detail has been banished to the Ticker, a real-time list of things your friends are posting now that scrolls down the side of your screen.
5. You can watch TV and movies, listen to music, and read news with your friends — all within Facebook. Starting today, thanks to a whole bunch of partnerships, there are a lot more things you can do without ever having to leave Facebook. You can watch a show on Hulu, listen to a song on Spotify, or check out a story on Yahoo News (or Mashable, via the Washington Post‘s Social Read app). The ticker will tell you what your friends are watching, listening to or reading, allowing you to share the experience with them by clicking on a link.
The upshot: a brand-new kind of media-based peer pressure. On stage, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings — a launch partner — revealed that he had only just decided to watch Breaking Bad because Facebook’s Ticker told him a colleague was watching it. Netflix’s own algorithm had been recommending the show to him for years, but that was never reason enough for Hastings.
6. Facebook has more users and more engagement than ever. We got two interesting nuggets of information out of Zuckerberg (and the Zuckerberg-impersonating Andy Samberg): Facebook has hit 800 million users, and most of them are active. The social network just saw a new record for the most visitors in one day: an eye-popping 500 million.
Indeed, the whole impression left by the event was that of a confident, fast-evolving company that is becoming ever more professional, and Zuckerberg’s stage show bore more than a little resemblance to an Apple keynote. It’s going to be interesting to see what Google+ can do to keep up.