Will Facebook’s Timeline Last? A Closer Look at 7 Other Facebook Features from 2011

By CJ Arlotta 

Facebook users are afraid of change, according to a USA Today poll released in mid-October, which revealed that 56% of Facebook users did not like Facebook’s latest changes. With that being said, Facebook users are constantly growing by the day. What keeps current users with the social networking platform, and what drives new users towards it? The answers are endless, but we should not be looking at what brings users to the platform, instead we should be looking at what drives users away.  Timeline, Facebook’s “new kind of profile,” could be the underlying answer to the question at hand.

Let’s take a look at Facebook’s actions of the past year, shall we?

To start off the new year, Facebook “rolled” out a new profile to all of its users, which would of course, according to Facebook’s clever marketing, make it easier for users to tell their stories:

January 10, 2011 – A New Profile Is Here:

  • “A quick summary of who you are (like where you live, work and grew up), right at the top of your profile.
  • A row of recently tagged photos so friends can see what you’ve been up to lately.
  • Room to highlight meaningful friendships (like teammates, co-workers or roommates).
  • More of your favorite activities and interests.
  • The ability to tag your friends in important life experiences.”

Simple, but yet effective and useful changes to Facebook’s profile.

Further down the road, Facebook “rolled” out their Photo Viewer in February of 2011:

February 10, 2011 – More Beautiful Photos:

“We are rolling out the new Photo Viewer to everyone over the course of the next few weeks. Now, you can browse more photos faster without having to lose your place in Facebook. Visit the Help Center to learn more about using the Photo Viewer. Check out our Engineering blog for more technical details about how we designed and engineered the new feature.”

Another user-friendly feature for your Facebook profile. Remember the days when your profile would constantly lag, due to you searching through all of your drunken photos?

Of course I am skipping around Facebook’s timeline of 2011, but I’m choosing the changes that a lot of you will remember, such as the new game ticker:

August 11, 2011 – Making Games Better:

“When you’re playing games, you’ll now see a separate stream of your friends’ game activity, scores and achievements in a ticker. The best way to find new games is through friends, and now you’ll have more opportunities to see what they’re playing.

Maybe your best friend has started playing Sims; your roommate has a new high score on PacMan; or your mom and sister have taken up Words With Friends. Simply click on a story and you can start playing the game yourself.

You can now control who can see these stories for each individual app in your Settings. If you want friends to see you’re playing one game but not another, you can change that. You’re also able to limit visibility directly from the ticker by clicking “X” on a story to remove it.”

Remember: Not only did Facebook add the game ticker feature, but its developers also enabled users to bookmark their favorite games by adding the bookmark sidebar.

Also in August of 2011, Facebook introduced an easier way to share posts, photos, tags and other types of content with specific types of individuals:

August 23, 2011 – Making It Easier to Share With Who You Want

“Today we’re announcing a bunch of improvements that make it easier to share posts, photos, tags and other content with exactly the people you want. You have told us that “who can see this?” could be clearer across Facebook, so we have made changes to make this more visual and straightforward. The main change is moving most of your controls from a settings page to being inline, right next to the posts, photos and tags they affect. Plus there are several other updates here that will make it easier to understand who can see your stuff (or your friends’) in any context. Here’s what’s coming up, organized around two areas: what shows up on your profile, and what happens when you share something new.”

Remember this feature? This update created that little drop-down menu enabling you to share certain information with a particular group of people: public, friends or your own custom settings. Another useful feature, if used correctly.

September of 2011 is where things start getting a little hectic – a lot of changes begin surfacing all at once. “Improved” friend lists were only the start of September’s madness:

September 13, 2011 – Improved Friend Lists:

“This week, it will be easier than ever to see more from the people you care about and simpler to share with exactly the right people using Friend Lists.

Want to see posts from your closest friends? Or perhaps you’d like to share a personal story with your family—without also telling all your co-workers. With improved Friend Lists, you can easily see updates from and share with different lists of friends.”

Before anyone was able to learn the friend lists update, Facebook overwhelmed its users with the subscribe button:

September 14, 2011 – Introducing the Subscribe Button

“Until now, it hasn’t been easy to choose exactly what you see in your News Feed. Maybe you don’t want to see every time your brother plays a game on Facebook, for example. Or maybe you’d like to see more stories from your best friends, and fewer from your coworkers.

You also couldn’t hear directly from people you’re interested in but don’t know personally—like journalists, artists and political figures.”

To be honest, I am really pumped about the subscribe feature, and not for the reasons you may think. The subscribe feature allows me to stay friends with users that I normally do not like interacting with, so instead of defriending him or her, which would of course hurt someone’s feelings down the line, the subscribe button allows me to remove any unwanted updates from my News Feed. Genius.

Unfortunately, Facebook did not stop there.

If you ask any social media strategist about the difference between social media marketing and traditional marketing, he or she will tell you it’s all about engagement. Consumers enjoy interactions; they also enjoy features that enable them to make choices. Facebook’s “Interesting News” News Feed feature created a big uproar from the Facebook community (around 75% of users disliked the new feature), and rightfully so.

The previous Facebook changes in the earlier half of 2011 did not dictate to users. Instead, Facebook gave users the option to use newly created features. Facebook began to move into a different direction at the end of September of 2011:

Interesting News Anytime You Visit – September 20, 2011:

When you visit Facebook, you should see the things you’re most interested in, like status updates from your family and closest friends. Last week, we announced improvements to Friend Lists and a new Subscribe button to help you see more of what you care about, and less of what you don’t.

But it’s not just the people you hear from that make your News Feed interesting. It also matters how much you visit Facebook. If you haven’t returned in a week, you may want to see a summary of top stories first. If you’ve already visited several times that day, you probably care more about recent news.

Starting today, it will be easier to keep up with the people in your life no matter how frequently or infrequently you’re on Facebook.”

According to polling around the time of Facebook’s changes, over 80% of users did not welcome the alterations. However, Facebook developers did not seem to care, due to their introduction of their latest Facebook creation: Timeline:

Tell Your Story With Timeline – September 22, 2011:

“Since the beginning of Facebook, your profile has been the place where you tell your story. People use it to share everything from the small stuff, like their thoughts on an article, to the most important events of their lives, like the photos of their wedding or the birth of their child.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately), due to a current pending lawsuit against Facebook, the Timeline profile has not been released to all users, which makes polling feelings about the new layout nearly impossible. However, one can make the assumption that Facebook’s approval rating will sink.

The reason why I believe Facebook’s Timeline profile will be short-lived is simple: Facebook developers make too many changes to allow a simple timeline to develop for over the span of a year.

As shown above, Facebook developers change the layout often, which in return produces outrage in the Facebook community. Yes, Facebook changes typically receive negative feedback at first, but it seems as though the community has been increasingly negative. Since changes happen quite often, why should we possibly expect the Timeline profile to stay? Does Facebook really expect users to believe they will be able to capture birth to death on their new layout?

CJ Arlotta covers the realm of social media marketing for small businesses and brands. Currently, he is accumulating more knowledge of the social media industry and has been developing strategic proposals for clients. Feel free to email him at cjarlotta”at”socialtimes.com or follow him on Twitter @cjarlotta. Check out CJ Media Solutions for his social media marketing business.