Looking to the Future, Facebook Digs Into Your Past

New developments announced by Facebook at its F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco on Thursday might give the social networking king new advantages over Google as the two battle for dominance. They may also create a world of hurt for Apple.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Timeline, which lets subscribers store and display all their stories and apps on their Facebook page.

Timeline’s essentially a visual record of a subscriber’s life based on information and images the subscriber uploads to Facebook.

Subscribers can see anything on their friends’ timelines and also track patterns in their friends’ activities.

Perhaps the anger of Facebook subscribers over privacy issues in the past led Zuckerberg to emphasize that users “have complete control over everything” in their Timelines.

Timeline works on any device, including mobile devices.

Zuckerberg also announced the new version of Open Graph, which forms the basis for Timeline.

About Timeline

Facebook subscribers can share any activity in Timeline, Zuckerberg said.

Timeline copes with the enormous amount of information that details a person’s life by displaying only the most recently input information in detail and summarizing all the rest.

Timeline consists of a vertical line running down the screen, with blue and gray dots on it. The blue dots indicate significant moments or events in a subscriber’s life and the others are depicted as gray dots.

Facebook had to revamp its Open Graph to enable Timeline to function as it does.

Timeline will let Facebook subscribers not only see what their friends are reading, listening to or watching, but also join them in real time.

“For a social network, it’s natural to share what you’re doing with your friends,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

“It’s consistent with Facebook’s strategy and should provide them with a deep competitive edge,” Enderle added.

The Building Blocks for Timeline

To enable the capabilities in Timeline, Facebook is calling for the creation of a whole new class of apps which are social by design.

Letting subscribers connect to anything in any way they want “will make possible a completely new class of social apps that weren’t possible before,” Zuckerberg said.

These apps “are not asking the user’s permission,” Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor told the audience at F8. Instead, the apps set users’ expectations up front by telling users they’re social in nature.

That makes the design of these apps simpler, Taylor said. “You don’t need to have permission requests [in these apps],” he explained.

Facebook’s partnering with several companies to develop social apps in the music, entertainment, media and lifestyle arenas.

Music industry partners include Spotify and Rdio; entertainment industry partners include Netflix, Hulu and DirecTV; partners providing reading content include Gizmodo, Slate, USA Today, The Economist and Yahoo News; and lifestyle app partners include Nike, Ticketfly and BuzzFeed.

Changing the World One App at a Time

Building in social capabilities into apps from the start may bring about a change in the way information and content are marketed.

“Today, we’re making it possible to build a new type of app and rethink industries at the same time,” Zuckerberg said.

For example, in the music industry, “it’s not about blocking your access to music, but giving you access to so many songs that you end up buying more,” Zuckerberg pointed out.

People who make listening to music a social experience are more likely to purchase tunes because they’re more engaged, Spotify CEO and founder Daniel Ek told the F8 audience.

“We’re bringing people back to pay for music again,” Ek stated.

Taking on the Google Threat

Facebook’s new features “are a fairly significant enhancement, and there’s a lot more stuff going on right now in Facebook,” Greg Sterling, founding principal at Sterling Market Intelligence, told TechNewsWorld.

“They’re trying to anticipate where Google’s going,” Enderle stated. “It looks like Facebook’s attacking Apple, but in reality, [these new features are] a defense against Google.”

However, Facebook’s moves could also threaten Apple in the online and mobile music, entertainment and media areas.

“Apple will be collateral damage,” Enderle said.

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