Facebook is growing up. The company revealed its Web ambitions Thursday in a keynote speech reminiscent of Apple’s slickly produced presentations, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined the company’s next stage.
Facebook is aiming to become an all-inclusive Web portal for news, music and movies, letting developers build apps that will update users profiles in real-time. And all those interests will be prominently displayed on a splashy new profile page called the “Timeline,” which pulls together all the content you have on Facebook into one, deep page.
The Timeline has three main components,Zuckerberg said --- all your stories, all your apps and a new way to express who you are. Pictures and videos are featured prominently, making profiles much more visually focused, and users can sort through the feed by date, type of media and location. Users can customize the top of their timeline, called a “cover” — a large photo at the top of the profile that will look familiar to anyone with a blog. In fact, the whole profile looks more like a blog, which fits in with Facebook’s decision to extend the limit on user updates to 5,000 characters.
Facebook is also trying to change the way people get news. Zuckerberg revealed that the site is partnering with news outlets such as Yahoo News, The Daily and, yes, The Washington Post. Users will be able to click on an item in a news stream and read it on the site without ever leaving the social network. They can also read what their friends are reading and find new content based on suggestions.
“This new app is fun,” said Donald Graham, chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post Co. “If you know that several of your friends have read a story, you’ll be more interested in it.”
Graham is also a member of Facebook’s board of directors
This level of sharing also applies to music, through partnerships with companies such as Spotify and Clear Channel’s iheartradio, and video via deals with streaming sites such as Netflix (though not yet in the U.S.) and Dailymotion.
Some of the new apps are available immediately. The Timeline layout has started its beta test, and will be available to everyone in the coming weeks.
Apart from the functional and visual changes Facebook revealed Thursday, the quality and style of the keynote speech also showed how the social network has grown as a company. The slides projected off of Zuckerberg’s laptop could have been taken directly from former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ computer. Facebook also broke up its presentation with highly produced, evocative videos showing off exactly how they want users to take advantage of the new features.
The moves are sure to irk some users and privacy advocates, who are likely to object to the real-time feeds from apps.
If you hook up your accounts on other media sites to the network, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that you may be sharing more than you realize. Your friends will be immediately be able to see that you’ve read articles on Jersey Shore, indulged in a cheesy video or opted to listen to one-hit wonders from the eighties.
At a time when Web users are trying to become more savvy about what their digital identities project to the world, they may be loathe to share their private media consumption so publicly.