Facebook's f8 Conference: Integration of Entertainment and Personal Histories in Facebook
The 2011 Facebook's f8 conference is an annual conference for developers and entrepreneurs with a focus on Facebook and social networking. The last two conferences included announcements by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about new features that are being introduced to the public. One of the announced new features of the 2010 conference was the now universal "like" button. The latest conference, held in San Francisco, California on September 22, 2011, included many major changes and new features including a profile redesign, the Timeline, the integration of more "lifestyle" apps and streaming entertainment from movie and music providers.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the f8 conference with an introduction to Facebook's Timeline. Zuckerberg introduced Timeline as a "new way to express who you are," although essentially it is a digital scrapbook. Timeline will begin filling itself in based on the information users have already provided, including any milestones such as the start of a new job, a wedding, as well as users' birthdays and previous status updates. Timeline allows users to fill in and add more information about their own personal histories that extends long before they first created a Facebook account. The user has the choice of highlighting any event or milestone and adding pictures or videos, essentially presenting your own life story. Users can choose a cover photo in addition to a profile photo. Facebook friends can get a richer sense of one another and their history, instead of a collection of sporadic status updates. Lifestyle apps will also be added to include information friends may want to share, including an expanded section for interests.
Facebook's Timeline has already met with resistance and concerns about privacy. Users may need to be reminded that Timeline is based on information that users themselves have posted and that they can customize their own timelines. Basically, if you don't want it to be seen, don't post it. Privacy concerns will also be addressed with an expanded privacy page so that users can also set their own privacy settings. This includes visibility of information shown to non-friends.
Zuckerberg highlighted how the new Open Graph will facilitate integration with news organization apps and gaming apps as well as lifestyle apps. For example, a user can read an article, then friends will see the article appear in their ticker and can click on the article to read it on Facebook via an integrated app designed by news organizations. Several traditional and digital news organizations have already created apps for Facebook.
One of the greatest changes will be a profile redesign with placement of the Ticker and Timeline. The status updates posted by friends that once dominated a users' homepage in a newsfeed will no longer be front and center. The real time status updates from friends will now be in a Ticker in the upper right corner of the page. Users will be able to read and comment on any posts of friends from here. Before, posts were often lost within hundreds of more recent posts. Now, posts will be saved on the profile of the user that posted. This allows room on the homepage for more content.
The now ubiquitous "like" button hasn't escaped the profile redesign. The "like" button that was one of the new features announced in the 2010 f8 conference has since been integrated into over 2.5 million websites globally with 10,000 added daily. Facebook users will now let users connect to things even if they don't want to "like" the items. Zuckerberg explains "We are making it so you can connect to anything you want. Now you don’t have to like a book, you can just read a book," he said. "You don't have to like a movie; you can just watch a movie." Users will be able to get creative with buttons and use verbs such as "read" or "watch" to share content with friends.
At the 2011 f8 conference, a substantial part of time was dedicated to Facebook's integration with streaming services. Prominently included in the presentations were Internet radio and subscriptions including Spotify. Facebook is positioning itself as an entertainment hub, also including video streaming apps such as Hulu and Netflix. With users regularly sharing video and music links, it's a logical progression for Facebook to include music sharing and listening for users. The social networking site is set to add a new "Music" tab along with the tabs it already has for Photos, Friends, Places, Groups, and Games. Spotify's CEO Daniel Ek appeared on stage during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's keynote address. With Spotify and the new Ticker, if a user sees that a friend is listening to a song, he can listen along in real time. Users will discover more music through their friend's pages. Beyond just streaming services, the event ticket services have integrated their products with Facebook. Users already coordinate events and buy tickets to concerts with friends on Facebook, so integrating that function in Facebook will make it easier to facilitate that process.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave the keynote address of the 2011 conference. However the conference was kicked off with an impersonation of Mark Zuckerberg by Andy Samberg. The impersonation included announcements of some parody features such as the Slow Poke which gives the sender 24 hours to retract the poke. Zuckerberg and Facebook's developers are a young group that is comfortable with more integration of what their subscribers do on the internet and the functionality they can add for Facebook users. With over 800 million users, each has their own habits and uses for the internet. Any changes to Facebook's user interface are often met with resistance, and often that resistance lies in a generational divide. This year's f8 announcements integrated functions that users already share with friends. Instead of just posting a link, friends can listen to the same song. Instead of just sharing photos, users can share their life story in their own way. Facebook allows us to share and connect with each other in a much more streamlined, efficient and fun way.