Below is my summary of the Facebook F8 conference that happened today, announcing big changes to the Facebook platform moving forwards – from profile look and feel to the way apps work and behave.  For me this is exciting news and offers huge possibilities within my industry, for the other 99% of people out there it will probably spell more frustration as Facebook again are changing the way the site works and looks!

I have written a summary below of the main features and announcements – as ever through the lens of digital marketing and technology.

Timeline:

Mark Zuckerberg describes the evolution of the profile page as aligning to first meeting of a new person – the first ever profile page back in 2004 was what you would share within the first 5mins of that conversation (i.e. basic personal information – name, relationship status, university you studied at, etc). This then evolved over the coming years to include more and more information (i.e. first 15mins of the conversation) – so status updates, groups, likes, apps, etc.  The result of this evolution was that your profile page turned into a continuous list of updates that fell off the bottom of you profile and appeared somewhat meaningless to someone else browsing your profile.

Facebook saw this as a real problem for the future existence of their site as it drums up the years of use.  So.. they have created something called ‘Timeline’ – and this was one of the main new features announced today.  Timeline is, as Facebook refers to it, ‘the story of your life – the next 2-3 hours of that indepth conversation when you meet someone new’ – its a summary of all your activity from the day you were born through to present day, ordered chronologically, and displayed in an engaging, meaningful way.

Below is a preview of what the new profile page will look like:

Mark Zuckerberg - Profile Page

 

The changes within the profile were categorised into 3 main sub-features:

‘All your stories’

Using the timeline control (located top-right of the picture above) you click or scroll straight to a year within your life.  The timeline automatically summarises and pulls out the main events that happened, reducing the amount of items the further back in time you go – so keeping your timeline relevant without loosing those key events.  Below is a picture of the demo that Mark showed from back in 2007.

 

From watching the demo it looks like a really cool feature and not as clunky or boring as you might first imagine from the description!  I’m looking forwards to seeing, once it is live, how it picks out the key events within my timeline – could be pretty interesting!! :-/

 

‘All your apps’

The way that apps work within the profile page has also been revolutionised to be displayed in a modular, somewhat MySpace/Bebo, style design at first glance.  Apps are also synced with the timeline feature so although you only see the latest activity within the app window on the profile (I.e. latest run completed, meal cooked) you can also see a full report of that apps activity across a timeline view.

Adding new apps to your profile looks super intuitive and slick – during the demo it showed you being able to literally just click on an app that friend has activated and add it to your profile.  Which, should really help the sharing and widespread growth of app usage in Facebook.  For me in the current design, apps are really hidden away and difficult to find and engage with.

Also demonstrated was the integration of applications like Run Keeper and Spotify directly into your profile – so once you’re synced up for example with Spotify, the app will automatically update the song you are listening to in real-time.  Therefore no more ‘share on Facebook’ pop-up boxes!  This feels kind of daunting to me right now, like I would be out of control of what was being posted/shared – but we’ll see how it works once launched 🙂  The key element that Facebook are trying to push is ‘frictionless experiences’ – so sign-up once and then seamlessly update and share thereafter.  Facebook believe (and I have to agree!) that this will improve and exponentially elevate the sharing of common interests (i.e. favourite bands/songs) with your friends.

A new way to express yourself

One of the first things you notice about the new design is a striking cover photo riding across the header of the profile page to ‘express who you are’ as soon as someone hits your profile.  The way I see it a ‘first impressions’ feature, again relating back to the scenario of meeting someone for the first time.  Facebook refer to it as displaying the ‘unique moment that defines your life’ – again changeable over time, but the idea that it wouldn’t be changed as much as your profile picture.

‘..all geared around the pretence of being able to tell ‘the story of your life’

 

Another key feature is the fact that it is completely optimised for mobile!  This is great news for us digital marketeers because for too long now rich media campaigns built on facebook were completely redundant as soon as someone jumps on their mobile device or tablet.  Growth within mobile is obviously going off the chart so I am glad that Facebook are filling that void.

 

Another key development also was the next version of ‘Open Graph’ – Facebook’s development protocol, and map of all Facebook’s connections.  I won’t go into great detail about this right now, but last year this took the form of only being able to ‘like’ products and pages – going forwards this will be extended to include any other ‘verbs’  -i.e. ‘Read a book’, ‘Listen to a song’, ‘watch a film’ –

This again gives so much more opportunities for Brands and driving social engagement – across so many situations the ‘like’ element just didn’t fit properly.

 

Launch of these new features are going to start next week supposedly – cannot wait!

If you want to watch the full 2hrs of the conference then it can be watched again using the link below:

http://techcrunch.com/2011/09/22/live-from-facebooks-2011-f8-conference-video/

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