Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and guests including Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Zuckerberg-doppelgänger Andy Samberg unveiled the third major evolution of Facebook today at the f8 developer conference. Pretty, shiny, flashy new Facebook aims to curate your entire life on a single page.
Zuckerberg likened the three major versions of Facebook to a conversation with someone you’ve just met. The initial Facebook had one photo, no wall, and was just the first five minutes of an introduction; this is who I am, nice to meet you. The second version, launched in 2008, was the next piece of the conversation: this is what I’ve been up to. This latest Facebook, he says, is a way to express who you are.
“The next five years will be defined by the apps and the depth of engagement possible,” according to Zuckerberg.
Two major announcements came out of the keynote: a new profile called Timeline, and a revamped Open Graph system with a new class of apps and analytics.
Facebook’s New Timeline, News Ticker, and GraphRank
The idea behind this new timeline is that users will curate their entire lives on a single page. Everything you’ve ever done and decided to share in one place.
Once we get into the new class of apps and how the average user is apt to use them, you may be as frightened as I am. Frightened, intrigued, yet hopeful. I imagine if I’m feeling this way, the average user is confused as hell right now.
Timeline has a glossy, magazine look, especially if you’re heavy on photo posting and multimedia use.
Facebook had identified a problem with the previous version; you spend so much time curating the story of your life, and it just falls off the bottom of your wall. To address this, they created Timeline, the official mantra of which Zuckerberg repeated several times: “All your stories, all your apps, and a new way to express who you are.”
Content appears in chronological order down your wall. The further back you go in time, the more Facebook summarizes and collapses your content. Timeline can be sorted according to the type of content a user wants to see. You can choose to view only a user’s Videos, or Photos, for example.
One interesting change with the Timeline profile and the Newsfeed Ticker is that your posts won’t display in friends’ news feeds at all anymore, unless your posts are “part of a pattern we don’t quite understand yet," or if the activity is generated by an app. Part of the Timeline/Ticker/Newsfeed change is a new algorithm called GraphRank. According to Facebook, GraphRank is an algorithm for apps “designed to give more prominence to engaging activity... GraphRank isn’t a global score, but a personalized view of you and your friends’ tastes.”
The New Open Graph and the Language of Like
Where the profile was an introduction and conversation, Open Graph is an evolving language, said Zuckerberg. Open Graph, when it first launched, added nouns to the conversations you had with friends: the who, what, where, why, when, and how. This new Open Graph (currently in beta) and coming apps add the verbs: Watching, Listening, Reading, Cooking, Hiking. It comes complete with a new set of analytics.
Zuckerberg commented numerous times on the magnitude of the information we share, and these latest developments allow sharing in an order of magnitude never seen before. As an example of an app developer contributing to this revolution in sharing, he brought to the stage Spotify CEO Daniel Elk.
Spotify is one of the dozen or so music app developers partnering with Facebook in this new generation of “canvas apps.” By simply hovering over content being watched, listened to, or otherwise shared by a friend, you will be able to listen to songs or watch entire movies within the Facebook platform.
Facebook wants to revolutionize the music industry, Elk said. They have spent the last few years building a service that is fair tot he music industry. You discover new music through friends, instead of being locked out of music you haven’t bought yet, and are actually enticed to buy more. And therein lies the crux of the problem with Facebook’s launch of the new design as a completely user-centric experience, friends.
“We Wanted to Design a Place That Feels Like Your Home” (Or: "Why You Should Lock Your Doors")
That’s right, Facebook wants you to feel right at home sharing everything from what you’re cooking, to how often you exercise, to what you’re listening to and what movie you’re watching. All time-stamped and available online.
There are obvious privacy concerns here and Facebook is no stranger to public floggings over privacy issues. They have recently introduced in-line privacy settings to help users control how content is shared. However, the data that is shared with Facebook and with third-party app developers should be worrisome for the average user.
The words “frictionless” and “serendipitous” were used to the point of almost meaninglessness in the keynote; we are meant to believe that this new launch is all about the user experience and helping you, Dear Facebook User, to share all of that stuff you’ve kept inside that is just itching to get out.
Reality check time: There is a reason corporations want to know what you’re watching, who you’re sharing it with, what you’re cooking and who else is eating it, how often you go for a jog, what kind of music you like, etc. They are collecting data to market products to you.
Plain and simple, take all of the touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy life curation/scrapbooking out of it and understand that every time you check in, post, share your activities, or otherwise engage online, you’re being profiled.
What This Means for Marketers
This type of data, collected at such a personalized level, is a marketer’s dream. I suspect, though, that this could spell the end of Facebook as a marketing platform for small to medium businesses, at least outside of the Facebook Ads model.
Zuckerberg talked about how the new profile and apps models are going to revolutionize the music and film industries. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings made a brief presentation and admitted that when first approached by Facebook, he had concerns about the social media giant having access to the user data of all Netflix users.
The new apps and profile, however, seem to have convinced him that sacrificing user data privacy is worth it in the long run. He explained that Zuckerberg has told him that success for Facebook is if Netflix wants to achieve “x” and Facebook can bring them to “2x.” This is great news for those in the entertainment industry. I suspect major brands like Starbucks and Coca Cola will also be just fine.
Those who will struggle with New Facebook are small and medium businesses. Facebook fans don’t engage and interact with Pages like they do with Friends. They may be listening, and your marketing message may have gotten through in the past, but with the birth of the News Ticker and the removal of most posts from the news feed, how will a business get noticed? We asked for clarification on GraphRank and its effect for Pages and were informed it does not apply to Pages at all; they still fall under the EdgeRank algorithm.
What this means, though, is that users won’t see brand updates in their news feeds at all anymore, unless the user is incredibly active in liking, commenting, and posting to the Page. A Facebook rep told Search Engine Watch, “Ticker is designed to give people real-time updates, which includes Page updates from brands.”
I have to think it’s a calculated move on Facebook’s part. With more than 750 million users, they have the lion’s share of the consumer base already on board. If businesses now have to pay to be seen, all the better for Facebook.
If Google+ is able to draw Facebook users over to their platform and offer benefits for businesses at the same time, they’re going to give Facebook a run for their money in the social sharing = big business economy.