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The Lowdown: What Facebook Announced At F8

Facebook announced a number of new changes at its F8 developer conference including a new way to view user profiles, dubbed as the Timeline, closer integration with apps and content apps within Facebook for reading books, and listening to music. The Timeline view will be rolled out to users over the next few weeks, while it will be open for developers. Also, new apps will start rolling out, but their complete functionality will be available after the timeline is widely deployed. Here’s The Lowdown on F8 announcements:

– Timeline: The timeline is a chronologically arranged view of a user’s status updates, pictures and other activities on Facebook marking the various events of his life. While recent updates will be displayed in a detailed manner, users will be able to choose important events or photos from the past, or even add them for a particular time period, and make them visible to others. A menu will allow users to browse the timeline for a particular year, choose the type of update: for example just pictures, and also browse in map view, to see the user’s activity geographically.

Our Take: On the face of it, a biographical, picture and maps aided view of the user’s life looks like an interesting concept. Although Facebook has said that it will ensure privacy controls and let users filter what they’d like their friends to access, in a way Facebook has a record of everything that a user does, at least whatever he shares. So Facebook will act as a journal of your life, but it remains to be seen if everyone is comfortable with the concept.

– Social Apps on Timeline: Facebook will also allow users to post updates on what they’re doing, including activities such as cooking, listening to music, watching a movie or going for a run, via Media and Lifestyle apps. Apps will be able to post updates to the timeline and also populate ‘Reports’ on the user’s activity over a chosen period of time. For example a social cooking app will be able to post a report of what the user cooked during the year.

Our Take: Social apps will populate analytics of users’ behavior patterns, lifestyle related choices, again generating a good amount of data for marketers. A lot of third party apps including location and tv check-in apps, post data on user profiles any ways, it’s just that the way they do it will change a bit.

-New verbs for status updates: Expanding beyond ‘like’, Facebook will allow users to post what they’re ‘cooking’, where they’re ‘running’ or which book they’re ‘reading’. These activity updates will appear in the newly introduced news ticker that appears on the right hand side-bar and not in the main news feed. Users will be able to join their friends by clicking on the updates.

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Our Take: Verbs will be like metadata for activities, so this might help in Facebook’s internal algorithm for customizing the user’s feed, ads and now that it intends to introduce it, content. The Ticker might aid in de-cluttering the news feed, which at present, is inundated with tons of different updates.

– Media Apps: Facebook has made changes to its Open Graph app technology to allow apps to let users constantly update their profiles, and enable them to share content with their friends, after just a single permission prompt. Facebook announced tie-ups with online music service Spotify, online movie streaming service Netflix and online TV service Hulu, to introduce apps that will allow users to access content within Facebook, and share it with friends. For example, the Spotify app will constantly update the user’s stream with what music he’s listening to and others can join in by clicking the update, and chat about it within the app. Since these apps will also allow analytics, users will know which song is ‘trending’ among their friends.

Our Take: While Facebook has said that it intends to introduce more ‘granular’ controls to regulate sharing, we feel one-prompt permissions to apps for unhindered sharing might arouse privacy concerns and also borders on being intrusive. However, at the end of the day the more socially inclined will find it convenient. Also, services like Netflix, Hulu and Spotify are not available to Indian users, so content will have to come from Indian services like Indiatimes’ Gaana.com (like Pravin J suggested) or Hungama.

– News Apps: Facebook will also feature news apps from the likes of Yahoo, The Guardian, Washington Post, Flipboard and many others. Users will be able to share what stories they’re reading, and once signed into an app, they will know what they’re friends are reading. This, according to Facebook will aid news discovery.

Our Take: Twitter is already aiding news discovery and a lot of journalists are even using it as a source for their stories. Although users get access to news links through their news feed by way of groups or pages that they subscribe to, news content on Facebook will be a first. Apps like Flipboard which turn the user’s Facebook feed into a news magazine, are already aiding discovery and personalization, but they were restricted to devices like the iPad. With news apps, we expect news discovery to become more social for everyone.

Read more on: The Facebook Blog | Timeline Tour

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