After downloading the developer’s release of Facebook’s new profile page, Timeline, I immediately did what I’m sure all of you will do when it rolls out wide September 29: I used the new scroll bar to jump down and take a look at past years of Facebook posts.
Quickly I got to my first status update, in 2007: “putting down the cave paintbrush and joining Facebook.” And then… what? I scrolled through the blank screens from my pre-Facebook years, oh so many of them, and started to wonder: Did I even really exist then? If a tree falls and it’s not mentioned on FB, did it happen?
But here’s my prediction: If you can get through this kind of minor existential crisis, and if you aren’t mortified by the privacy concerns of having so much information stored in FB’s databases, and if you’ve been cautiously interested in using your Facebook for professional promotion, and if you can ignore all the whining about change, you’re going to like Timeline and most of the new stuff.
The release, and even more so Mark Zuckerberg’s F8 keynote to announce it, seem custom-tailored to address those who think that Facebook is intrinsicially superficial, supporting only the most banal and ephemeral interactions: bragging, gossip, superficial chit-chat, and Internet memes featuring singing Russians and cute furry things falling over.
Where the past 5 years have been about getting people “signed up and connected,” said Zuckerberg, the next 5 years are going to be about “apps and the depth of connection.”
Facebook knows that to win the race against Google Plus, it’s got to do two things better than it has before: 1. Serve both personal and professional networking needs, and 2. Engage people emotionally. It was no accident that its tear-jerking ad for Timeline, featuring a quick tour through someone’s life/profile-to-date, was a higher-budget version of Google’s recent Chrome ad featuring a father using Gmail to store a lifetime of missives to his growing daughter.
Language matters. Zuckerberg’s keynote introduced a new lexicon: The profile is “the heart” of your Facebook experience, and you’re not posting “updates” but “stories.” Facebook is now “the story of your life…. All your stories, all your apps, and a new way to express who you are.” (He repeated this. Again and again. Like a friendly robot.)
Will Facebook win? Who the heck knows! Like all Friendly Robots, it tends to make tremendous gaffes as it interacts intimately with humans. But its new release is a step in the right direction, with just one glaring exception – more about that in my companion post on the release:
How are you liking or hating the new Facebook?
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