The Facebook user profile page has undergone significant changes over the past six years. In the beginning, it contained descriptive static text. Over time, the company has made the Wall – which functions both as a stream of user-published content and semi-public communication – the most visible component of the page, migrating the more static elements to a secondary Info tab today.
Last year, with the launch of the “Open Graph” API, Facebook gave some new life to the Info tab by automatically placing Liked pages and sites in the appropriate categorized list on the Info tab. For example, when a user Likes the Colbert Report page, it appears in the “Television” category of the “Arts and Entertainment” section of the Info tab on the profile page.
While the Info tab may seem pretty static, and perhaps boring, given how much traffic Facebook profile pages get, it is a powerful viral channel for content discovery on Facebook. In fact, so much so, that when Facebook originally launched the Platform and gave developers the opportunity to install profile boxes on the profile pages of application users, those profile boxes became the most powerful source of distribution for many applications. As a result, developers pushed the boundary of profile box design, making them as big and flashy as possible. Because this trend wasn’t consistent with the vision Facebook had for its service — these application boxes made the profile much less engaging for the average visitor — over time Facebook limited the size of application profile boxes and eventually kicked them off the profile page altogether (before subsequently removing application tabs as well).
Now that Facebook is going in the direction of integrating user Likes more deeply on the profile page with last year’s Open Graph launch, could the application boxes of 2008 have been a prelude to what could be richer, more sustainable profile integration coming this year? Given Facebook’s stated goals of driving more and more traffic to websites and pages, we think this is one area where, given the appropriate design and technical constraints, Facebook could deliver additional value to Platform partners, while simultaneously delivering additional user value.
What might this look like? For instance, in the “Favorite Teams” section of the profile, Facebook could display stats or schedule information in a structured way, instead of just a team logo. Or in the “Music” section of the profile, Facebook could display tour dates, album info, or song playback tools. Facebook could also allow users to elevate some of their Liked items to “featured” status, or potentially algorithmically select some Likes to highlight in a similar “featured Likes” way. This concept could also be extended to include other items that Facebook has experimented with recently, like “memorable status updates.” In the case of Liked items, Facebook could also allow for richer linking to the page or website that the user Liked in order to generate more referral traffic.
Ultimately, Facebook showed last year that they intend to integrate content that users Like on the profile page itself. We could see that trend continue this year with more product updates in this direction, some of which could potentially be announced at Facebook’s next f8 event (for which no date has yet been announced).