A few weeks ago a friend of mine from college quoted a wall post I left on her Facebook profile at the beginning of our freshman year of college. I read the post and was mortified. Only an eighteen year old would write such a silly comment—I was trying to convince her to watch Star Wars and literally used the dreadful phrase “peace out”. She had just tried out Facebook’s new feature, Timeline, so in order to embarrass her in return, I gave in and signed up for it. At last year’s f8 Conference, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook’s new feature, Timeline, “is the story of your life,” and he was not kidding. If anyone was ever curious what I did on August 1st, 2005, Timeline has made the answer readily available for any of my friends.
Timeline is more aesthetically pleasing than the last version of the profile page and it provides the information in an actual timeline format, starting with your most recent activity and ending with the day you came into existence. Navigating through the months and years of any Facebook profile now involves only 1-2 clicks, instead of resorting to never-ending scrolling. Also readily available are all the apps you have on your profile, along with any activities involving them (what song you listened to on Spotify, what movie you watched on Netflix, etc.). If anyone was ever curious what I do in my spare time, they could easily check my new profile and see everything I’m willing to share with the masses.
So in my efforts of trying to find some dirt on my friend, I instead found a mass of really old information that honestly did not need to be brought back to life, or at least not to the forefront where it can easily be accessed. Granted, Facebook lets you hand pick what you want to appear in your Timeline and what should remain hidden, but this isn’t all that comforting to me, and according to our New Media Measure™ Q3 2011 data, I am not alone. Over two-thirds of active Facebook users (68%) agree they are concerned about the privacy of the information they share online. And though Timeline will display posts only with the people you originally shared it with, Facebook has had plenty of privacy snafus in the past.
Likewise, over half of active Facebook users (59%) are not comfortable with websites and apps sharing their information with advertisers. Given that the layout of Timeline will likely prompt users to share more information, Facebook will be able to further personalize the ads served to each profile.
Users will eventually have to transition to the Timeline as their profile, and will therefore have to spend a few hours deciding what they want displayed to the world (users get seven days to preview Timeline before going live). The real question, though, is when company Pages will eventually also have to migrate to Timeline or to a Timeline-similar layout. This presents a potential danger to brands and companies. It would be frowned upon if a company decided to hide or delete negative comments or controversial campaigns. But it can also be perceived as damaging to have all this negative feedback readily accessible to its consumers. One way or another, the decision of what to include on a new Pages layout will bring forth strong reactions.
So as more users enable Timeline, how will they react to it? Will they embrace having all of their Facebook activity presented to them in one shot, or will they cringe at the amount of information Facebook has stored over the years and be so overwhelmed by it that they will jump ship like I did? And, when brands are eventually required to embrace a new Pages format, what will they decide to showcase on their own Timelines?