Last Thursday, Facebook held the fourth edition of its developer conference, "f8" at San Francisco. As expected, the conference introduced some revolutionary changes to the way we perceive Facebook in our lives. It is Mark Zuckerberg's biggest gamble so far since the inception of Facebook and has invited a whole lot of reviews from the public. The response has been a mixed bag of opinions. However, only time will tell whether this move pays off the dividends that Zuckerberg expected.
Let's have a look at the features which rolled out at f8 and how much of an impact they will have on our lives.
The first revolutionary launch was the "Timeline", which Mark said they had been working on it for a year. It is the biggest haul-up ever of the Facebook profile. Over the years, the Facebook profile has seen numerous changes, but this is by far the biggest and the most profound. Timeline essentially is your new "Wall" on Facebook. Facebook wants you to represent yourself as an individual on the Web via Timeline. It aspires to be your identity on the Net. Basically, Timeline is like a scrapbook of your life on Facebook from the time you joined. All your information like your status updates, photos shared, the apps you have used are all posted in a completely different fashion. It encourages you to fill in the details right up to your birth. You can actually go beyond the time you joined Facebook and fill in all the details from the day you arrived on this planet. Interesting, isn't it? The Timeline will be an opt-in feature at first starting from the 30th of this month and will gradually be the default profile in the future.
Also announced was a new way of sharing things onto the social networking website. Until now, whenever you wanted to share another page on Facebook, you 'liked' that page. You can even see that all posts on ReflectionsPN have a 'Like' button at the bottom. At f8, Facebook announced that the 'Like' button is getting new companions. This is because it thinks that the 'Like' button is like an endorsement for the site, app or whatever even though the user might be showing genuine appreciation. To remedy this, the social networking giant announced the roll-out of Facebook Gestures. You can now [verb] any [noun]. So, you can now 'Listen' to a particular song, 'Watch' a particular movie, or 'Read' an article on ReflectionsPN (provided WordPress allows me to have a 'Read' button). This is completely up to developers what verb they want to use with what. Experts believe that this can cause a 'sharing mania' - with so much information shared, we might even get sick of it. But, again let me point out that only time will tell how these changes affect the way we connect on Facebook.
In the early days of Facebook, an average user spent 5 minutes a day on the site. Now, it is around 55 minutes. Will that go up in the future? Facebook wants that to happen and at f8, it announced a slew of partnerships with various companies which basically means the following. You can now listen to a song on Spotify or watch a movie on Netflix or anything else from "within" Facebook. There is no need to go to another site at all. This is how it works. If your friend listens to a song on Spotify, it will show up in your Ticker, and then you can listen to it "inside" Facebook. For those in the dark, Spotify is an online service which allows you to listen to songs for free but charges you for downloading. An important note: all these songs are licensed from the various artistes or companies, so you can listen to an original song for FREE.
A new controversial tweak was that apps only need to take your permission once to post to your wall. Previously, every time you saved an animal on FarmVille, (do you still play that?) you had to authorize and could decide whether you want to post it to the feed. However, now you need to authorize just once, and the app will share in the future without your knowledge. I expect this feature to kick up quite a storm once it is rolled out but there is also a positive side to this. All the irrelevant information from apps will go to the Ticker and won't be displayed in the News Feed. The News Feed will only contain photos, status updates, and questions.
There was also a mind-boggling statistic revealed at f8. An unbelievable 800 million users are now signed up on Facebook and the site also saw an unprecedented 500 million log in on a single day. Overall, the Zuckerberg of f8 2011 was quite different from the Zuckerberg of yore. It has been a remarkable transformation from a nervous, media-shy Zuckerberg to a strong, vibrant CEO of an emerging, path-breaking company called Facebook. He portrayed a characteristic charisma on stage, and we might have just seen the next Steve Jobs.
All these changes are chalked out like this because Facebook believes that the future of the web will be a more social experience. And with these changes, the big daddy of all social networks aspires to be the social fabric with which we communicate on the Web. It will be interesting to see how Google+ responds to all these changes. And time will only tell whether these changes will help Facebook cement its position as No. 1 in view of Google+'s emergence or encourage people to port out to other social networking websites.
So, tell me what you think about these revolutionary changes below. I too will be rolling out my Timeline in a few days, so stay tuned for that.