It’s coming, straight at you at a thousand miles an hour and nobody on Facebook can hide from it. If you’re one of the Facebook users who we’re ‘upset’ with last week’s round of Facebook system updates you haven’t seen anything yet.
It is without a doubt the most shattering change ever made to the social network and I expect it to cause a bit of an insurrection. I’m not talking about the new real-time “Ticker” at the top right of your profile or about the “Top Stories” that now appear at the top of the news feed — those are inconsequential compared to what’s next.
In the weeks ahead Facebook will be switching profile pages to a new format called “Timeline”. I’ll admit, as a technologist I prefer to work and play with things before they become available to (or are foisted upon) the general public, so I made the switch last week and instantly regretted it, this is the most sweeping change I’ve ever seen anyone, not just Facebook make to an existing platform. I HATED it.
After a couple of days however I’ve come to realize this is the best thing Facebook has ever done and it’s brilliant simplicity was lost on me at first. Your profile will go from having one central column to two, with boxes of text, photos, videos and maps of places you’ve checked-in at or posted mobile photos from. Instead however of just displaying your most recent activities, your profile will become more of a scrapbook for your life, all the way back to your birth if you want it to. Facebook can become in essence, a record of your existence: All your memories, your high points, your low points and everything in between. This is what Facebook was always meant to be, the true digitization of your life.
When you first see it you’ll wonder why the status update box is so small and where all your most recent updates went and why do you need to post a large “Cover photo” to your page (which is a nice touch by the way) and then, after you get over the complaining and start to work with it you’ll quite simply get lost in its elegance and easily waste a few hours tidying up your Timeline, choosing to feature your happiest memories, hide the insignificant ones, and then pausing for a bit when you come across something nostalgic. All this of course is based on everything you’ve posted to your profile over the years, so the longer and more active you’ve been on Facebook the better your timeline will be, and perhaps you wonder as I did is how Facebook knows what it knows about me, because it really appears know a lot.
Like our own memories, the Timeline seems to understand that some moments have resonance that stand the test of time. It’s a marvel of computer programming: An algorithm that comes eerily close to emulating human memory; perhaps the first algorithm to spark such a deep emotional response.
Yes you will hate the new Facebook profile when it launches in the coming weeks. Then, you’ll realize that Facebook has unleashed something remarkable; A meaningful social network. And like any other groundbreaking technology — you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it..