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Ticker, Timeline and Verbs, Oh My. What’s Going On At Facebook

Yesterday marked Facebook’s 4th annual F8 Conference – a conference that brings together developers and entrepreneurs to collaborate on the future of personalized and social technologies.

The f8 conference starts with a keynote speech by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg followed by various breakout sessions concentrating on specific topics. The f8 conference is known for being the place where Facebook introduces new features and announcements to the public for the first time. As with all major announcements from Facbook, this years was enveloped in lots of rumors and speculation about the future direction for the network.

Earlier this week, prior to F8, Facebook introduced a few refinements to the news feed that drew widespread outrage. For a couple of years now, Facebook has had a two-tabbed News Feed, one with “Top Stories,” or updates Facebook thought you’d be interested in (based on your browsing history), while the other tab had the “Most Recent” updates. Facebook has apparently decided to get rid of this two-tabbed interface and integrate users’ Top Stories and Most Recent Stories in one big, smart, News Feed.

Now when you log in to Facebook, you’ll see a smart News Feed with all of your updates — both the “important” and recent ones — in one place. Facebook will still try to determine which stories will most interest you, and will highlight these “top stories” with a pale blue corner. They also added a real-time feed (aka Ticker) in the upper-right corner of the page. Some readers are concerned that this will adversely affect their privacy, but as far as I can see the updates in the box will not share more than can normally be found on a person’s private profile page.

It definitely wasn’t apparent at the time, but in hindsight I believe these changes were a pretty obvious hint at what was going to be introduced during the F8 conference.

Timeline

As significant as these changes were, what Mark Zuckerberg discussed at F8 made them seem trivial by comparison. First, he introduced Timeline, an evolution to the Facebook profile. He went on to explain that back in the early days of Facebook, your profile was pretty basic – just your name, a photo, where you went to school…stuff you’d cover in the first five minutes you met someone. Over time, your profile evolved to better reflect how you actually communicate with your friends. Now you can can share photos of what you did last weekend, and updates about how you feel today.

But since the focus is on the most recent things you posted, more important stuff slips off the page. The photos of your graduation get replaced by updates about what you had for breakfast. With timeline, now you have a home for all the great stories you’ve already shared. They don’t just vanish as you add new stuff. Timeline is wider than your old profile, and it’s a lot more visual. The first thing you’ll notice is the giant photo right at the top. This is your cover, and it’s completely up to you which of your photos you put here. As you scroll down past your cover, you’ll see your posts, photos and life events as they happened in time. You choose what’s featured on your timeline. You can star your favorites to double their size or hide things altogether.

Open Graph and Social Apps

After discussing Timeline he went into substantial changes to Open Graph and the Facebook Apps. Open Graph apps allow you to add activity to your news stream without having to press “OK” ever again. No more prompts, ever. With this functionality, “discovering new things through your friends”, one of the main goals of the future of apps on Facebook, being accomplished simply. With Open Graph apps you will get a single “permissions” page that’ll have you allowing all publishing all at once – Frictionless Experiences and Real-time Serendipity are the major goals here, and sharing on the fly in real time is the how they plan to accomplish it.

As he discussed the changes to the Open Graph and Apps ecosystem Zuckerberg stated:

“We believe that eventually all apps that you use will be social. Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected, and the way that we do this is to map out all of the things that you’re connected to. More changes will come with this new class of apps that will change the language of sharing. You can connect to anything by liking it. This year, were taking the next step; we’re going to make it so you can connect to anything you want, the way you want. You don’t have to like a book, you can read a book, you don’t have to like a movie, but you can watch a movie. You can just eat a meal, you can hike a trail, you can listen to a song.” He went on to say that “building this language is pretty important, so were doing it carefully and slowly.”

There were a number of other more technical details shared, but these were the focal points. It’s clear that Facebook is really trying to redefine not only what but how we share and curate our social lives. Based on the changes that we’re going to see I think they may be on to something. However, as with many things in life, time will tell.

What are your thoughts on the Facebook changes? What is most interesting, most disturbing? Are you excited to see the changes rolled out or are you looking to move somewhere else? Let me know in the comments below.