Facebook’s massive makeover – social will never be the same again

22 Sep 2011

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at F8

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has completely revamped, rewritten and redrawn Facebook’s Social Graph, adding new possibilities with a new profile page experience called Timeline and a new way for people to buy music, videos and more.

Facebook has signed major content deals with at least a dozen music partners, including Spotify, as well as major video deals with Hulu and Netflix, in a move that will turn users’ profile pages into entertainment hubs.

Under the new profile page experience called Timeline, users will be able to not only show more of what’s going on in their lives but they’ll be able to discover new music and movies that Zuckerberg said could reinvent the entire entertainment industry as we know it.

Facebook revealed (via comedian Andy Samberg, who pretended to be Zuckerberg at the start of the keynote at F8) that it has 800m users and Zuckerberg explained the Facebook profile page has been redesigned to tell a user’s life story, integrating large photographs, maps and apps under a structure called ‘Timeline’.

Taking the stage at F8 in San Francisco in the last hour, Zuckerberg revealed Facebook has reached the point that at any one time 500m people could be on Facebook simultaneously.

In recent days, Facebook rolled out a number of changes, including a new News Feed that has inspired mixed reactions.

Introducing the Timeline concept, Zuckerberg pointed to an obvious problem with Facebook today: “All the stories you share over time fall off a cliff and disappear. Millions of millions of people spent years curating the story of their lives and there’s no way to share all those stories. We now have the solution.”

The first thing you’ll notice about Timeline is a massive signature photograph at the top of the page.

Introducing Timeline as the “story of your life”, Zuckerberg said the newly designed profile page will tell all your stories, and apps will be used as a new way to express who you are from the places you’ve visited, the music you love and the dishes you’ve cooked.

A new Reports structure will allow users to group under themes all the places they’ve been, the food they’ve enjoyed and more.

Timeline, Zuckerberg said, will be easy to manage and update. “Timeline is for you to express who you are,” he said.

In creating the new Social Graph experience, Zuckerberg said apps needed to be redesigned.

“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. To help you map out all the things to be connected. In 2007, we introduced at the first F8 the concept of the Social Graph and last year we introduced the concept of the Open Graph, not only as a map of relationships and connections, but to add anything you want and connect by liking it.

“This time, we’re going to let you add anything you like and connect to an order of magnitude more things than before. Now you don’t have to ‘like’ a book, you can say you ‘read it’. Now you don’t have to like a movie, you can say you ‘watched it’.

“Before we added nouns so you could ‘like’ anything you wanted. This year we’re adding verbs.”

Facebook changes to radically alter the music and movie industries

The impact of Facebook’s new approach will not only be felt by individuals who use Facebook, but by the entire digital content industry.

The new redesign that saw a Ticker feature appear on the top right-hand corner of Facebook will now include activities, such as friends who are listening to music or watching a movie.

Users will be able to hover over a particular song and listen in real time to what their friends are listening to or do the same with a movie or TV programme.

All of this is down to major deals that Facebook has struck with digital content providers. The social networking giant has also struck a curated news deal with Yahoo!

“We’ve worked with a lot of partners with this and we’re excited about what the next wave of companies are doing,” Zuckerberg said.

“We’re trying to help you discover so many songs that you end up buying more content than otherwise. To make the model work and for you to discover more music, the best way is through your friends.”

Zuckerberg said his purpose has been to rethink the entire entertainment industry through, with new ad and subscription models.

Spotify’s founder and CEO Daniel Ek took the stage to explain: “People discover music through their friends. In the old days, we went over to friends’ houses and browsed through their record collections.”

On the new service that Spotify is launching with Facebook, Ek said: “We knew the service had to be free to draw people away from piracy – it had to be inherent with social and there couldn’t have been a better place than Facebook.

“Ten years ago Napster came along – it didn’t work for the music industry. We (Spotify) built a service that fairly compensates artists and that’s a powerful notion,” Ek said.

Zuckerberg then demonstrated how the new ‘hover’ feature will work in terms of TV shows.

On the Ticker feature to the right-hand side, a message could pop up telling you that six friends are watching Glee on Hulu. The user just hovers their mouse over the post and can then begin watching the programme.

“If friends of mine have watched movies with Johnny Depp in them – that reveals more interesting patterns than before – I just click on a link and the player will show up in Netflix and I can begin watching Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Zuckerberg – whose presentation skills have improved immensely – wasn’t joking in his slick presentation. He has succeeded in rethinking entire industries.

When will Timeline launch?

Zuckerberg said the Timeline beta period starts right now. Developers are encouraged to start using Timeline immediately.

He said Timeline will roll out over the next few weeks as Facebook polishes the edges. The Open Graph apps will be added as Timeline rolls out.

However, certain apps that work with News Feed and Ticker, like music, movies and TV, will start immediately, Zuckerberg said.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com