Monday, December 26, 2011

My Thoughts on the Facebook Timeline

Facebook's Timeline has been out for over a week now and so far the the popular reception has been mixed. The majority people I know personally and online have either ignored it or have been ambivalent towards Timeline. The concept of organizing events, interactions, and photos on the profile page to create a personal narrative is compelling, but as is the norm with Facebook, the concept has not quite matched its implementation.

One of the main issues is that Techcrunch's Josh Constine explored is that even though Facebook's Timeline works well with the current privacy controls, there are many things that users can easily overlook or forget to remove from the Timeline. For any avid Facebook user there are potentially thousands of Facebook photos, comments, and events that could show up on the Timeline, and not all users fully understand that events on the Activity Log in the distant past can show up again. 

Potential privacy headaches aside, the Facebook Timeline also feels like a half-hearted throwback to the bygone days of Myspace personal profiles. Users have long desired the ability to customize their profile pages, and while the Timeline is a start in helping satisfy those desires, it does not offer up the ability to embed media or fully customize themes. Giving users more options would have gone a long way in giving Timeline much more substance, since as it is right now it feels more like a time-consuming gimmick rather than a desirable enhancement to Facebook. 

It is easy to understand Facebook's approach with Timeline: It is a addition that gives users power to curate and record their relationships with other people. However, is it something that the majority of Facebook users have wanted or even find useful? Doubtful. It seems to me that the Timeline is a project that was born primarily out of Facebook's desire to further cement their hold on the market, rather than being born from the desire to provide users with tools that they want to use. 

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