What Facebook announced at F8 today

At its annual developers conference, the world's largest social network unveils Timeline and a new Open Graph, two major features that seem likely to change the way people interact with the service.

Mark Zuckerberg introduces Timeline at F8 2011.
Mark Zuckerberg introduces Timeline at F8 2011. James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Facebook is rolling out some of the biggest changes in its history, unveiling its new Timeline and all-new Open Graph features today, features that will radically change how users display their information, and the way they discover new content.

At F8 , Facebook's annual developers conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the two new features. Timeline, he explained, is "the story of your life," significantly altering the way people's information is shown on the world's leading social network, presenting "all your stories, all your apps, and a new way to express who you are," Zuckerberg said.

Timeline, which went into beta today, is designed to let people go back in their lives, Zuckerberg said. "It's how you can tell the whole story of your life on a single page."

This is an extremely significant change to the way Facebook looks. With Timeline, users will see several new sections, including visual tiles, ways to get all their apps, and a cover photo.

To be more precise, in Timeline, all a user's stories appear in the bottom left-hand side of the page, much like their existing Wall. On the right, there's a timeline that breaks down all posts from various points. And finally, there's a large "cover photo" at the top of the page. The idea is that this allows users to jump back to their earliest Facebook posts.

Zuckerberg said that Timeline is already enabled for mobile devices.

Zuckerberg shows off how Facebook's new Timeline looks on a mobile device.
Zuckerberg shows off how Facebook's new Timeline looks on a mobile device. James Martin/CNET

In Timeline, users will be able to see everything shared recently. Click on a year in the timeline, and it scrolls down to that year. Years will also get broken down by month. Users can roll their mouse over a point in time, and they instantly get the option to add photos, notes, and other items to that time period.

In addition, items in the Timeline will be posted on a map, so users can visually see what they've done. The map is built by Bing, a result of the partnership between Facebook and Microsoft.

While Timeline is only in beta now, developers will be able to access the new feature immediately.

Open Graph, Ticker
After unveiling Timeline, Zuckerberg then moved on to Ticker, part of the next version of the social network's Open Graph.

Mark Zuckerberg introduces the Facebook Ticker and its link to Spotify today at F8.
Mark Zuckerberg introduces the Facebook Ticker and its link to Spotify today at F8. James Martin/CNET

The idea, he said, is to enable a "completely new class of social apps."

Open Graph and Ticker will be rolled out slowly, giving developers a chance to create apps for Timeline. However, Zuckerberg said the elements of Open Graph that help people discover media content like music, movies, TV, and news will be available immediately.

Last year, Zuckerberg said, Facebook rolled out Open Graph, a map of all a user's connections in the world, and made it so users can connect to anything they want in any way they want. But now with the next Open Graph, he said, users will also be able to connect to an order of magnitude more things than ever before using Ticker, a way to express "lightweight" actions, thoughts, and other things anytime they want.

Facebook updates will now include verbs when people listen to songs, cook a meal, or watch a show.
Facebook updates will now include verbs when people listen to songs, cook a meal, or watch a show. James Martin/CNET

When a user shares a post normally, it goes into their news feed. But when that user adds activity through Open Graph, it will go into Ticker, and into Timeline, but not into the news feed unless that's what's desired, Zuckerberg explained. It's a stream of everything a user is experiencing and expressing through Facebook, and the first time the service has enabled sharing so-called lightweight activities, such as listening to a song, watching a movie, reading a book, or even cooking a meal.

And Zuckerberg said that he expects this will enable users and others to create "a completely new class of social apps than what was ever possible before," including those about music, movies, TV, books, and any media as well as lifestyle apps that let people express all kinds of things about their lives: their runs, their naps, their moods, and much more.

All told, the new feature will allow "frictionless experiences," "real-time serendipity," and finding patterns and activity, Zuckerberg said.

Clearly, Facebook designed the new Open Graph with the intention of allowing users to easily access all kinds of media content from a wide range of publishers. That includes music, movies, TV, news, and games. On stage, Zuckerberg and guest speakers including Spotify founder Daniel Ek and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings talked about how music and video content can be easily discovered, and Zuckerberg talked about how dozens of partners will be making news stories available through Open Graph. In addition, many game publishers will allow users to get easy and streamlined access to the leading type of Facebook content.

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