Facebook’s Timeline: Hey Google, Gloves Off!
On Tuesday, Facebook announced that all User Profiles are converting to the new Timeline format in the coming weeks. Facebook now accounts for 1 out of every 7 minutes spent online globally (according to a recent comScore study); with User Profile views accounting for 21% of that unprecedented share, Timeline will soon become a ubiquitous cultural metaphor and frame of reference.
Timeline looks like nothing else on Facebook – a gigantic mural pushes everything halfway down your page; stories and widgets crisscross what used to be your Wall – even the ads look different. Like it or Unlike it, Timeline isn’t going anywhere, and there’s a good reason: it will be remembered as the first in a series of master strokes which allowed Facebook to make Myspaces out of rival ad platforms.
For those users who can trace their roots on Facebook back to the beginning (all users in a matter of weeks), Timeline recalls the sort of tectonic shift that was achieved with the introduction of the News Feed in September 2006. 20% of time spent on all social networking sites is framed by Facebook’s News Feed, and no feature deserves more credit for the company’s unanswered growth over the last 5 years.
Despite the rapid advances and mash-ups that punctuated the web 2.0 movement, it took nearly a decade for the perfect social networking paradigm to emerge – a model that reaffirmed that we are all, each of us, at the center of our respective universes. Facebook’s News Feed offered peeps and peepers a one-stop reprieve from the winding profile-to-profile commute required to keep up with our circle of friends.
MySpace leapt ahead of Friendster with custom CSS. Facebook lapped both of them with social RSS.
Timeline represents another monumental pivot, allowing Facebook users – I can probably just say “users”, or “us”, at this point – to share their entire life story (in case you were asking for it) on a single page. The delightful irony of this new feature is that its true value (and brilliance) is bound up in the stuff that’s not new at all.
By providing easy access to a lifetime’s worth of content, Facebook has found a way to monetize its entire “back catalog”. The News Feed, along with its scrappy nephew, Ticker, profit from delivering the most up-to-date content; Timeline thrives on nostalgia and selling you back your crusty Spring Break photos which it turns out you didn’t delete.
What does any of this have to do with Facebook secretly engineering its own Google killer in plain sight? Check back soon to see what happens in Part II!
By Jonathan Wood, Director of Operations at XA.net