Last Thursday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted Facebook’s 2011 f8 conference in San Francisco. Zuckerberg announced a series of updates and changes coming to Facebook. While some of these changes have already begun, expect a lot more in the upcoming weeks.

Not only does Facebook now have over 800 million users worldwide, but earlier this month half a billion people used Facebook in a single day. Now that’s a lot of traffic. Not only have sign ups and visits increased for Facebook, but so has engagement. Social Networking has become a ubiquitous tool used by millions of people around the world to stay connected. Now that all of these connections are in place, we are entering a new era of Social Apps and engagement.

A noticeably excited Zuckerberg takes the stage and begins to describe the new updates to Facebook.

Timeline

Zuckerberg begins by explaining that the Profile is the heart of Facebook and that people have a very strong ownership over it. All of the changes to Facebook over the years have been centered around the Profile and as it evolved, people shared more than just their basic information – who you are, where are you from, where did you go to school. Now people are sharing many more tidbits about their lives – photos, stories, experiences etc. The problem is that as more sharing occurred, those stories vanished at a faster rate. Up until now, you would have to go back and search for those updates. All of the most important moments that you have shared were buried away somewhere.

Introducing Timeline.

Timeline is the story of your life, and it had 3 main components. All your stories, all your apps, and a new way to express who you are. Zuckerberg claims that with Timeline, you can tell the whole story of your life on a single page in a very intuitive and visual manner. You now have the ability to jump to any moment in your life and see what was most important to you then. For example, you can quickly and easily go back to the summer of 2007 and see updates, photos, comments, links, etc. that tell the story of what you were up to in that period of time. Furthermore, you can also add content into the past. If you recently came across a photo from a wedding a few year back, you can scroll to that moment in time and add it to your personal Timeline.

With Timeline came a new type of content: Major Life Events. With this, you can add just that – major events in your life. Marriage, baby, graduation, new pet, bought a house, etc. Another new feature rolled out with Timeline is Map. This allows you to show on a map where you have been and when. For instance I can show that I have spend a lot of my life in Ottawa – but also that I made a lot of trips to Vermont to ski, went to Chicago and Boston last summer, spent 3 weeks in California when I was a teenager, lived in New Jersey as a kid and spent four years in school in Lennoxville.

Social Apps

In order to help Timeline reach it’s full potential, Facebook has also introduced a whole new class of Social Apps. Now this is really cool. Zuckerberg explains that people love using apps to express themselves. With this new series of apps, you can easily share what you’re doing. In the past you could “Like” things. Well now there is a whole series of verbs you can use to share what you are doing with your friends on these Social Apps. For example there will be Social Apps to share what you are watching on Netflix, what you are listening to on Spotify and what you are cooking using Foodily. Zuckerberg believes that Facebook is no longer a Social Network, but rather a platform for story telling. The integration of Timeline and Social Apps will better allow users to share the story of their lives – and give them the power to be the curator.

Ticker

With the introduction of sharing via Social Apps comes some problems. People don’t want to overshare with their friends. They don’t want to annoy them by flooding their News Feed. This is where Ticker comes in. Ticker is a lightweight stream. It is a smaller, live rolling feed of lighter, maybe less important items that your friends are sharing and it will show up on the upper right hand side of your News Feed. The idea is that maybe an item in the Ticker will catch someone’s attention, but since it is constantly streaming, that information won’t overload or annoy your friends.

So what kind of Social Apps will their be? Zuckerberg defines 4 types of apps. The first two naturally appear on the more social end of the spectrum: Communication and Games. But now, Facebook hopes to introduce two more types of apps that are also social by nature: Media and Lifestyle. These apps will accomplish two things. First, it will help you fill out your timeline and secondly, it will help you discover new things through your friends. This will be accomplished in three ways:

  1. Frictionless Experience – When using new Open Graph apps you will be able to add your activity to your Timeline without being prompted to do so every single time. This falls into your lightweight activity. The whole idea is that if you adding a Social App, you inherently want to be sharing that activity. That is why the middle step (the prompt to share) will be eliminated. For example, if you add the Spotify App to your Timeline, every time you listen to a song it will be shared on your Timeline automatically. And, of course, you have the ability to set your privacy settings. Frictionless Experience.
  2. Real Time Serendipity – This is where the discovery comes in. If your friend is listening to a song, you can hover over that item on your Ticker and join in and listen to that same song with them. This will be added your Ticker so that your friends can see what you are listening to.
  3. Finding Patterns – So let’s say you are interested in a particular friend’s music taste. You probably don’t want to spend the time searching through every song they have ever listened to – you want to see a summary of the songs, bands, albums, and genres of music they listen to. By looking at patterns in your friends activity, you can discover a lot of cool new things.

As you listen to a song with a friend, you can live chat with them about that item. It’s very intuitive, and very cool. This is a great way to learn new things about your friends – their likes and interests, and things you have in common. Zuckerberg believes that developers are not only using Open Graph to rethink music, but to rethink the whole music industry. They are beginning to move away from blocking you from listening to songs that you havent bought yet, and towards allowing you to discover so much more new music that you will eventually buy. And who better to give you a recommendation on a song or new band than a friend who you trust.

But it goes beyond music. Open Graph can even be used to discover other new content like TV shows, books, movies, recipes, etc.

Zuckerberg finishes by stating that “We exist at the intersection between technology and social issues. The next five years will be defined by apps and the depth of social engagement.”

It will be interesting to see these new features rolled out and the reaction from users. Will people get overwhelmed by these changes? Or will they take the time to learn how they can improve their overall social experience on Facebook?