Editor’s Note: Pete Cashmore is founder and CEO of Mashable, a popular tech-news blog. He writes occasional columns about social networking and tech for CNN.com.
Facebook is about to completely change the way its profile pages look
Cashmore: I thrive on new things, but this change was radical even for me
Your profile will become a scrapbook documenting your entire life, all the way back to birth
Facebook users, mark my words: You’ll revolt when the site rolls out its new features in the coming weeks.
Facebook is about to completely change the way its profile pages look as part of the website’s biggest redesign so far, and only a fraction of the website’s 800 million users seem to have the slightest clue.
I’m not talking about the new real-time “Ticker” at the top right of your Facebook profile. I’m not even talking about the “Top Stories” that now appear at the top of your Facebook news feed – those are tiny, insignificant changes compared to what’s just around the corner.
But boy, did some people react badly to even those minuscule improvements. Among my Facebook friends, more than half said they disliked the changes and some threatened to quit. Of course, they did no such thing. How will they react when Facebook throws away the old profiles and replaces them with something completely new?
If you use Facebook, chances are you’re unaware of the major changes that are slated to begin rolling out by the end of this month (full disclosure: Mashable is one of several news organizations partnering with Facebook on a social news app). Only geeks like me are obsessed enough to have watched Facebook’s 90-minute announcement of the new profile pages last week.
And an even smaller percentage of Facebook users have discovered, like I did, that you can enable the new “Facebook Timeline” profile page right now so you’re prepared for the launch.
So what’s the big change? Facebook will be switching profile pages, perhaps optionally at first, to a new format called “Facebook Timeline.” I switched my profile over last week and boy was it a shock – I immediately wanted to switch it back to the old format. I’m someone who thrives on trying new things, but this change was radical even for me. Yet I could find no way to switch my profile back, so I stuck with it for a few days.
I’m so glad I did: Facebook Timeline is the best change Facebook has ever made.
Here’s what’ll happen once the Timeline profiles are launched: Your Facebook profile will go from having one central column to two, with boxes of text, photos, videos and even maps of your favorite locations. Rather than just displaying your most recent activities, your profile will become a scrapbook documenting your entire life, all the way back to your birth. Facebook will become a record of your existence: All your memories, your victories and your defeats, your loves, your losses and everything in between.
You’ll be shocked, as I was, when this change is made. Suddenly your life is laid out before you, the highs and lows somehow pinpointed by Facebook’s algorithms. You’ll wonder why the status update box is so tiny now, and where all your most recent updates went.
You’ll add a big, new “Cover photo” to your page and waste a few hours preening your Timeline, choosing to feature your happiest memories, hide the inconsequential ones, and lingering awhile on the most bittersweet of moments. And you’ll realize, as I did, that Facebook knows you better than you know yourself.
Through this process, you’ll realize that Facebook Timeline is much more than a way to post the minutiae of your existence. While a typical social networking profile might highlight what you ate this morning, or what time you left for work, or where you had lunch, Facebook Timeline takes these thousands of seemingly inconsequential events, discards the irrelevant ones, finds the most emotive, the most visual, the most striking and emotionally touching moments and pulls them into sharp focus.
Much like our memories, Facebook Timeline understands that some moments have resonance that lasts through the years. 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.
So yes, you will hate the new Facebook profile when it launches in the coming weeks. Then, like me, you’ll realize that Facebook has unleashed something so remarkable that you didn’t even recognize it at first: A meaningful social network. And like any other groundbreaking technology – the PC, the smartphone, the iPad – you’ll wonder why life wasn’t always this way, and how you got by without it.