The Internet shouldn't just be a place to gather information and connect with friends, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes. It should also be the place where you preserve and share the most important memories of your life.
Zuckerberg on Thursday unveiled a new centerpiece of the social network called "Timeline," along with ways to allow friends to discover and share music, read and comment on the news, or watch the same TV show or movie their friends are enjoying.
"We wanted to make Timeline a place you were proud to call your home. Timeline is a completely new aesthetic for Facebook," said Zuckerberg, showing off the visual new feature at the company's f8 conference, before an audience of more than 2,000 software developers and business partners.
Timeline allows Facebook members to store and share videos and photos from the most important moments of their lives, organized year by year. It also will include a map showing where on the planet you spent your time over the past year. The new feature will gradually become available on Facebook in coming weeks.
Social media until now has been about the present or the recent past.
"It's the story of your life," Zuckerberg said. "You have all your stories, all your apps, and a new way to express who you are."
The changes give Facebook
a new plane on which to operate -- the past -- as it battles with Google's (GOOG) new social network, Google+, Twitter and other rivals in social networking.
"I think they've changed the conversation" with social networking and trumped Google+, Sean Corcoran, an analyst with Forrester who covers social media, said of the changes Facebook announced Thursday. "It's like your virtual life -- online -- and that's a whole new way of looking at the world."
New privacy concerns
But with Facebook allowing so much potentially intimate information about people's lives to move online, it will undoubtedly create new privacy concerns as well. The new data, both what would be contained in Timeline and what would be collected by the new social apps, are also a potential gold mine for advertisers.
Facebook executives said Thursday they know they will be navigating new waters, and said that was one reason why the company plans a gradual roll out of Timeline. They also said the new products would contain new privacy controls -- including new opt-in dialogue boxes -- that would make it easier for users to control the information they choose to share.
"There is a lot more control," said Chris Cox, Facebook's top product executive. "We've learned a lot since 2007" when Facebook first opened its platform to independent software developers.
While Timeline was a surprise announcement and the product of a secret one-year project within Facebook, the new suite of content apps, including new partnerships with digital music service Spotify, movie company Netflix (NFLX) and Internet TV company Hulu were expected.
The new apps, which will start to be available Thursday, will allow people to share their experiences -- whether listening to a Green Day song or taking a run in Golden Gate Park -- as they happen. So when people engage in an activity, Facebook's newly installed ticker running down the right side of the screen will announce things like, "Bill is listening to Green Day," or "Sarah is running in Golden Gate Park."
"We call it real-time serendipity," Zuckerberg said. The apps will work on a desktop browser as well as on a mobile device.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, who took the stage with Zuckerberg to show off Spotify's social music app for Facebook, said people are twice as likely to purchase new music on Spotify when they engage through Facebook to regularly share their favorite music.
"We are bringing people back to paying for music again," Ek said, which will support artists in creating more great music.
"It's amazing how much music you can discover from your friends," Zuckerberg said. "Knowing that you helped a friend discover something new, and that they like your taste in music, is awesome."
The f8 conference kicked off with a joke -- Saturday Night Live comedian Andy Samberg jumping on stage playing the part of Mark Zuckerberg. After joking about a new feature, "the Slow Poke," which would take 24 hours to reach its recipient, long enough for the sender to sober up and cancel it, the ersatz Zuckerberg was replaced by the real one, dressed in a plain T-shirt and jeans.
Speaking later to the press, Zuckerberg said that the urge to share details from the past would be so strong that almost all Facebook users would ultimately decide to participate in Timeline. The Timeline profile Zuckerberg showed off included photos of Apple (AAPL) Chairman Steve Jobs, the first road trip he took with his girlfriend Priscilla Chan, and pictures of his new dog, Beast.
"I think everyone wants to collect this stuff," Zuckerberg said, "and have the story of your life."
Facebook on Thursday announced some new features that will change how its service looks and feels. Here are some highlights:
Turn profiles into scrapbooks: Through a feature called Timeline, user's profile pages will be presented differently. Instead of a list of recent activity with links to earlier posts, Timeline will condense users' recent and past posts, pictures and activities so that their entire history appears on one page. The format looks something like a scrapbook, with pictures and video displayed much larger than they are now. Users can see full galleries or hidden posts by simply hovering over points on a literal line. Tune in with a friend: With its recently added "Ticker" box on its home page, Facebook is trying to highlight users' activities in real time. A new extension of that feature allows users to not only see when their friends are watching a streaming movie or listening to music on a service such as Spotify but to then tune in to the same video or song and enjoy it at the same time as their friends. Keep track of past activities: New and updated Facebook apps will work hand-in-hand with the Timeline feature. Within their Timelines, users will see posts from their apps, such as recipes they've used, songs they've listened to, maps of where they've been. New apps will ask just once for permission to post to users' Timelines, and then will do so automatically after that. Users can also go into individual apps and generate reports of things like songs they've listened to in the last month. Add apps easily: Users will be able to add apps directly by just clicking on the apps or app posts they see on their friends profile pages.
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