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f8 Recap: Timeline, open graph, and the road ahead

Today Facebook, once again, reinvented the Internet–profoundly reorienting our Web experiences around who we are as individuals, past, present, and future. Sitting in the sixth row, I could feel Zuck’s vision and energy. It was this same vision and energy from the very first f8 Conference four years ago that inspired me to develop Faceforce, write The Facebook Era, and then found Hearsay Social. It was great to be back in that same space, the San Francisco Design Concourse, for the fourth time.
In this morning’s keynote, Zuck unveiled the blueprint for the next four years of the Web. First, Timeline will create a complete overhaul of personal profiles to transform status updates into a rich multimedia canvas to tell one’s life story through photos, videos, music, games, and social applications. I liked how Facebook’s VP Product Chris Cox summed it up. He said visitors to your profile shouldn’t have to keep scrolling through the gray “Show More” button to learn about your life. There should be a simpler, richer, instantaneous way to express who you are and how you got here.
A key aspect of Timeline is the ability to create custom verb buttons (what Facebook is calling Open Graph actions). So instead of just being able to “like” a Page, Application, or other object in Facebook, users will soon be able to “read” a book, “review” a restaurant, “protect their family” with an insurance agent, so on and so forth. (For you geek types like me, this is a huge leap forward in building a semantic web, which is terribly exciting.)
The new level of expressiveness now possible with Timeline makes it much easier to share anything on Facebook–not just photos and links but also music (Zuck and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek did a killer demo on stage), video (Zuck also announced a partnership with Netflix), gaming, and a whole other slew of online and offline activities that people love to do but previously had difficulty sharing with friends.
In the weeks leading up to f8, Facebook had unveiled some pretty substantial changes, and now they all make sense:

  • Suggested Friend Lists: takes a page from the Google+ playbook and automatically suggests groups of Facebook friends based on shared workplace, school, family, and city.
  • Subscribe Button: a Twitter-like capability for one-way asymmetric relationships.
  • Ticker and Updated Newsfeed: showcases both “most recent activity” and “most interesting” news items.

What does this mean for businesses? Well, marketers will likely have even richer data from which to tailor messaging and experiences for the customer. It is also only a matter of time until Timeline and the new redesign get rolled out to Facebook Business Pages, which I believe will be a huge game-changer in terms of how businesses can showcase the people and experiences behind the businesses and ultimately connect more intimately and meaningfully with customers.
Congrats to Zuck and the team – I’m looking forward to the rest of this afternoon’s sessions. After that, we had better get back to coding away because after today, we certainly have our work cut out for us!

Clara Shih

A pioneer in the social media industry, Clara developed the first social business application in 2007. Her latest book, The Social Business Imperative, is a Wall Street Journal-featured bestseller. She is a member of the Starbucks board of directors.

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