Facebook’s annual developer conference was packed with news about big changes coming to the social network.
And if past history is any guide, most of you are probably going to be outraged by the changes, at least at first.
According to informal polls, web traffic statistics and general discussion with a handful of friends, Facebook’s f8 conference wasn’t nearly as interesting for non-tech folks. At the very least, it didn’t generate the same level of discussion as a typical Apple event.
Part of that could be because it’s a developer conference (not always the most interesting for people who aren’t developers) that was held in the middle of a working day. On top of that, digesting the Facebook platform changes announced today might be difficult after putting in a full day of work. After all, the company renamed several long-time parts of the site and added tons of new functionality.
For people who didn’t keep up with the f8 news as it broke, we’ve created a round-up of all the new Facebook changes and what they mean.
Profiles are now Timelines
We knew ahead of time that Facebook was planning to re-imagine user profiles, and that is exactly what Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg revealed at f8. Profiles have now transformed into personal Timelines, a more visual representation of the profile page. At the top of a person’s Timeline is a large, horizontal photo called a cover that can be customized. The familiar “Face” photo overlaps the cover on the left side and all of a person’s basic information (location, current employment, marital status, etc.) is listed just below.
Basically, the left sidebar on profile pages are now combined into the Timeline.
Scrolling down a person’s Timeline reveals posts, photos and other events from the past, which can be adjusted in size and hidden from view based on privacy settings. The Timeline sorts content based on algorithms and users can fill in gaps in their Timeline at any time. Older content is less frequently shown the as you scroll down the Timeline.
Liking (and other actions) now pop up in a real-time Ticker
Facebook has removed the automated updates from various apps and activities and placed them into a separate stream on the right side of the page. For example, posting an update from an entertainment check-in service like Miso — “Tom just rated Game of Thrones on Miso”– will now only appear in the ticker stream instead of the main news feed. The same is true for any alterations you make to your Facebook account — e.g. Tom Cheredar liked Game of Thrones and 7 other TV shows.
As previously reported, the Ticker stream contains all the activity from people you subscribe to in real-time. It’s intended to be a lightweight feed of updates that won’t annoy your friends.
Open Graph: Never leave Facebook (ever)
Facebook’s updated Open Graph is probably the vaguest of the new additions talked about at f8, and the part of Facebook’s platform that does the most. The Open Graph allows for a “frictionless experience,” real-time serendipity, and finding patterns in what you and your friends do, according to Zuckerberg’s description.
Basically, what that means is that, through Facebook apps that use the Open Graph, you can now more easily view what’s popular among the people you’re friends with on Facebook. Once you do discover something worth examining, you don’t even have to leave Facebook to experience it. So, if someone is watching and episode of AMC TV show Breaking Bad on Netflix, you’ll now be able to pull that video up without leaving the social network.
While many people reading this post may not understand why you’d never want to leave Facebook to experience anything else, the majority of Facebook users exclusively interact on the internet through Facebook or not at all. As VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi reported earlier today, Facebook is making a move to capture your whole life, which means keeping you content to never leave the site.
How Facebook does music, movies and TV shows
Prior to f8, there was plenty of speculation that Facebook would be creating its own music service — a sort of streaming music dashboard — that would aggregate the activity from all the popular services like Spotify, MOG, Rdio and others. What Facebook actually debuted wasn’t far from that concept, but it also wasn’t limited to just music.
Facebook’s Open Graph lets outside services create apps that integrate into Facebook’s news feed. Services like Netflix can be used within Facebook and allow users to watch shows at the same time. The same is true for music services, although it’s worth noting that this feature won’t be available in all regions due to copyright licensing and privacy laws.
News media brings its content to Facebook
If the majority of Facebook users aren’t going to seek news and information outside of the social network, the news media will bring that news content to them. Zuckerberg announced partnerships with a dozen news organizations who would be creating Facebook apps that feature their content.
The apps operate on Facebook’s Open Graph (see description above). When users want to read an article they find within their news feed, they are sent to a Canvas Page.
The Wall Street Journal, one of Facebook’s news media partners, launched its Facebook publication app earlier this week. Originally, I saw the move as interesting but ultimately something that wouldn’t be successful in the long-run. However, the app has far more potential for success within Facebook’s new Open Graph platform.
Lifestyle Apps: Facebook’s next evolution of apps
Previously, most of the applications I came across on Facebook’s platform were mostly useless and not at all useful in terms of an integrated experience. With Lifestyle apps, that might change.
Lifestyle apps allow users to share information about their various activities, such as exercising, cooking, watching TV shows, picking out clothes and more. Facebook has partnered with several companies, like Nike, Airbnb, StubHub and Foodspotting.
The best way I can describe this new evolution of Facebook apps is… applications that grew up, graduated from college and are now just as useful as they’d be on other platforms (iOS, desktop, Android, etc.).
And just like with the other apps, Lifestyle Apps will allow you to interact with outside services without having to leave Facebook.
Social Games will turn Facebook into an arcade from the ’80s.
Facebook Social Games will bring back the experience of hanging out at an old school arcade (the place with the video games that are housed in huge heavy boxes that only work when you pump quarters into them as shown in the original TRON movie).
Facebook’s Open Graph platform will enable new kinds of social game interaction. As VentureBeat reported earlier, if two of your friends are playing the Zynga game Words With Friends on Facebook, you can see that happening in the activity ticker (see description above). If you click on the ticker notification, you’ll see a window pop-up showing the exact word someone is playing. Clicking within the pop-up window will allow you to see the entire game board being played in real-time.
VB's research team is studying web-personalization... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.