Facebook 'Timeline' Tells the Story of Your Online Life, Lets Apps Mine Historical Data
Facebook has been all about socializing and sharing content. However, this interaction has a time-bound aspect to it. Your set of friends and colleagues today might be different from a few years ago. Your activities, likes, preferences and social status will definitely change through time. With this in mind, Facebook has been cooking up a new profile interface that will not only feature what you've been up to lately, but the entire span of your life -- at least the parts that are online.

At the recently-concluded Facebook f8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the developer community with a barrage of new features. Perhaps most notable is the introduction of what could be the biggest overhaul of Facebook profiles yet. The new feature, called Timeline, will be a collection of all relevant updates that your account has had from the beginning until the present. Timeline actually goes beyond Facebook's beginnings, and tries to plot your life even before the dawn of social networking.

"It's how you can tell the whole story of your life in a single page," Zuckerberg says. Let's just hope Timeline shows the right things.

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TechCrunch's Greg Kumparak explains how to activate the developer preview

Your Life, In One Page

Timeline is mostly a collection of photos, status updates, liked items, shared items, and friend connections. What is relevant here is that Facebook is showing developers and users the site's potential in connecting the dots -- whether these are in the present or in the past. Facebook will initially choose which content will appear in your timeline, which you can then tag, hide or edit as you please.

Learning Opportunities

The web interface of Timelines can be viewed in different ways, such as yearly or monthly, Either will be optimal depending on how active a user is on Facebook. Timeline is currently in developer preview, though, so not everyone can see their account's Timeline until Timeline rolls out for all users on September 30. However, anyone can sign up to be a developer, and any user can trigger Timeline activation with a few setting tweaks.

Data as a Platform

But more than users showcasing relevant points in their life, Timeline is more of a platform that apps can use to mine data stored throughout a user's history. Apps can showcase data from a user's profile and that of their friends, such as music preferences, places visited, recipes cooked and a lot of other information in a time-bound format.

With all this information, there is bound to be the issue of privacy. With a time-bound depiction of your online (and sometimes offline) life, there is always the risk of showing too much of your life to the wrong people. But, for Facebook, profiles are all about telling your story. Timeline is perhaps the best way to showcase your life story -- in one single page. And, if a person's life is the sum of all his experiences, will Timeline be the online equivalent of a person's lifetime?