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Facebook Forces Timeline On Users

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Facebook’s controversial re-design of the profile page will become mandatory in seven days

The Timeline redesign of Facebook, which users have been playing with since it was introduced by Mark Zuckerberg at the F8 conference in September 2011, will be automatically applied to all Facebook users one week from now.

The upgrade was designed to help drag the best content out of the “older post” obscurity and right onto the front page, while also providing new possibilities for online marketing. Zuckerberg went as far as calling it “the new way to express who you are”. The announcement was followed by a trademark infringement lawsuit by Timeline Inc, which managed to delay, but not stop the launch.

What the fuss is about

Until now, Timeline was an optional feature. However once you decided to participate, there was no going back, and the permanent nature of the changes suggested that the ultimate change was inevitable. The switchover deadline was finally announced on Wednesday, and in just seven days the new design will become compulsory for all of Facebook’s 800 million users.

Timeline will aspire to show your entire life through pictures, text posts and videos. It will rely heavily on apps, which will become more visual and interactive.

Another interesting feature is called the “activity log”. This log, only visible to the owner of the account, contains all of information you collected since creating your Facebook profile. That’s every picture, every comment, filed and catalogued. All of this information can be resurrected and permanently displayed on the Timeline page. After you decide to switch to Timeline, you will have a further seven day period to make changes to your profile before it becomes visible to anyone else.

Winter of our discontent

Since the announcement, countless petitions and anti-Timeline groups have sprung up all over the internet, with people demanding to be given a choice. On the other hand, nearly every change in design or function of websites like Facebook or YouTube is always accompanied by anger and frustration. Because of the scale of changes, it is unlikely that the complaints are going to achieve anything.

Unlike many regular users, interactive marketers are ecstatic about Timeline. The new design provides a lot more “behavioural data” and activity patterns, which allow targeted advertising to be even more precise. It is useful to remember that Facebook is first and foremost a business, and in this context Timeline makes a lot of sense.

Read about the alternative: Google+