Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook's new Timeline feature and revamped profile page this morning, and promised to have it rolled out to all users in the coming weeks – but we at Stuff are already basking in the future of social networking.
The new profile page is the biggest change to Facebook since its launch. Out goes the column design for something altogether more magaziney and interactive. The first thing to do is choose a Cover Image – a masthead that goes above your name and profile photo. You can grab this from your photos or upload it, but you can't yet crop or scale it.
Beneath your name is an info bar all about you – your bio, your friends, your likes and a mini timeline of your activity on the site (note: don't look at this unless you're willing to be very scared at how much time you waste, er, spend interacting with mates). There's also a Maps button that plots any geo-tagged Facebook activities on a nicely auto-zooming map.
One big change that didn't get a mention in Zuckerberg's keynote (and perhaps an attempt to claw back some of the glory stolen by Google Plus's Circles idea) is the way you can now categorise each status update under 'Work and Education', 'Family and Relationships', 'Living', 'Health and Wellness' or ‘Milestones and Experiences’. Under each, there are pre-loaded suggestions such as ‘Learned a Language...’ or ‘Lost a Loved One..’. Genuinely time-saving? Or just a bit crass?
The rest of the page is a free-for-all of two columns of photos, posts, likes and comments heading back into the past. If you click on the Favourite star on each entry, it expands to fill the full width of the page (although you still keep your Friends column and ticker on the far right). Head further down into the Timeline and Facebook automatically thins it out a bit, picking and choosing key events, highly commented albums and (we think) random posts.
Overall, is it a success? It’s hard to say when it's limited to just the profile. The whole experience is far more visually intense and in-your-face than Facebook’s traditional text-heavy layout. That’s great when looking at your own profile page and Timeline but it can get a little dazzling when you head over to someone else’s.
When the News Feed gets this freeform treatment and – especially – when ads start sneaking their way into your feed (there’s no sign of them for now), Facebook had better be ready for the inevitable backlash.