Facebook Reveals More Details About Timeline, Including an Approval Process for Open Graph Apps

“We’ve tried to be mindful about the lessons we’ve learned” Facebook Product Manger Manager Carl Sjogreen told me this morning when we sat down to discuss Timeline, the redesigned version of the user profile that debuted at f8 last month. He says that as the product rolls out over the next few weeks, Facebook will be manually reviewing and approving new Open Graph apps to prevent the spammy experience that emerged when temporarily gave third-party applications a place on the profile years ago.

This approach is much more similar to how Apple must approve apps before they enter the App Store than the way Facebook allows canvas apps to launch on its Platform without pre-approval. Sjogreen also revealed more details about Timeline, including that users will be given a curation period to manicure the content displayed in their new profile before it becomes visible to friends. Facebook believes that through social content curation and new lifestyle apps, users will be able to express themselves in more nuanced ways than ever before.

Timeline’s Impact on Privacy

Facebook launched Timeline to allow users to tell their story not just through their most recent activity as the old profile wall did, but through all of the most important moments of their life. Users can also authorize Open Graph apps to automatically publish activity such as song listens to their Timeline. Sjogreen says “All the feedback is pretty positive. People have complimented the design aesthetic”, which includes a place for a big banner image and provides users the flexibility to feature or hide different content.

Since a user’s friends can easily navigate all the way back to their first Facebook posts through Timeline, a lot of content that was previously difficult to access will become readily visible. This content might include major life events, but also objectionable or inappropriate posts users might have forgotten about but wouldn’t want family or professional colleagues to see.

No privacy settings have been changed and all Timeline content could previously be found by scrolling far enough down a user’s profile, but Timeline does allow historic content to be accessed with one or two clicks rather than dozens or hundreds.

To address this, when users receive the rollout of Timeline, Sjogreen says they’ll be given a curation period in which only they will be abe to see their Timeline so they can go back and hide content or adjust its privacy controls. They can then publish the Timeline and make it visible when they’re ready. Developers were given a similar curation period when they first received access to Timeline at f8.

Still, Facebook will need to carefully inform users of the importance of this curation period or they might skip it and make content visible that they might later regret. Sjogreen said he wasn’t aware of plans for this kind of messaging, though.

Regarding less appropriate content becoming visible, Sjogreen reflected Facebook’s goals of people becoming more open as well as cultural norm changes (privacy relaxing over time). “Timeline will be seen in a broader context. I think people understand that everyone went to college, everyone has a photo they posted to Facebook from college.” Everyone’s employers might not be so keen on seeing such racy party pictures or controversial status updates, though.

Timeline Apps Will Be Reviewed by Facebook

From 2008 to 2010, Facebook allowed users to install applications on their profile. While some conveyed important information such as where a user had travelled, Sjogreen told me that users would install “clowny apps” that they’d soon stop using, that would retain a prominent place on the profile with the intention of spreading virally.