Facebook Timeline

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 - 10:12pm -- Isaac Sukin

Facebook hasn't switched everyone to the new Timeline profiles yet, but they will soon.

New Facebook

Surely Facebook built Timeline because they thought it would increase user engagement, as if they weren't already sticky enough. Clearly they wanted to put more emphasis on the kinds of content people actually cared about, and less emphasis on the things people never look at. All well and good.

But Timeline is a gimmick. Anyone who actually uses Timeline for what Facebook says Timeline is for -- namely, looking at years of people's personal history in acute detail -- is not someone to whom I would ever want to give access to my profile. The Timeline format itself -- beyond the nice large photo at the top -- is a provably annoying mess. If you set up an eye tracker and watch people read a Facebook Timeline, their eyes flicker all over the place instead of just reading straight downwards. It's the same reason you should put form labels above the fields, not inline. It's gaudy, there's too much whitespace, and it's inconsistent with everything else on Facebook. But most importantly it exposes a whole bunch of stuff that I thought had scrolled off the page into oblivion four freaking years ago. I mean, I knew Facebook still had everything in a database somewhere, but I want people who are coming to my profile to learn more about me to focus on the current, interesting content (and preferably not my favorite rap lyrics from 2007).

Also, I like my "About" section. It says a lot about me. Now no one will ever look at it. And doesn't everyone use Facebook for photos? Because now the only way to focus on a user's photos is to click on an easily-missed box in the middle of the page. It's buggy, too, but they'll fix that eventually. And don't get me started about the news that applications will be able to insert themselves into your profile in exciting new ways.

I'm also really annoyed that the status update box is no longer immediately visible on the home page. I thought Facebook was about creating content? But no, Facebook appears to have decided that the only valuable content is all the mindless spam that external applications now have free reign to spew into the system. I guess you can't make advertising money off of status updates.

There are good things that Facebook is doing that I'd like to work on replicating. Facebook is focusing on the kinds of content people actually interact with in the stream, and trying to emphasize that content both visually and by bubbling up interesting content. Their new Smart Lists are great, although as one of the 5% of people that actually used Friend Lists previously, I'm not happy that my existing Friend Lists are now even harder to use than before. And I've previously written about some other things I like about Facebook's recent updates.

But the Timeline is gross. Not that it really matters; hardly anyone spends much time there anyway. Maybe that's the point.