Timeline still optional for Facebook users more than 6 months after global launch

More than six months after Timeline launched for users around the world, Facebook still hasn’t made the new profile mandatory.

Timeline, like most Facebook changes, has a large group of critics. But unlike most Facebook changes, this one has been opt-in. The social network has been patient about not forcing users into the redesign, even if it means there are some inconsistencies across the site. Facebook has not set a public deadline for when it will implement Timeline across the site.

Developers — and users who claimed to be developers — could switch their profiles during a beta period between September and December last year. On Dec. 15, 2011, Facebook made Timeline available to any user who wanted it. Although the new profile was opt-in, company spokespeople said Timeline would be mandatory for all users within a few weeks. Previously, Facebook had given users five weeks to convert to a new profile design, but it hasn’t done the same for Timeline.

An informal poll of 17 users found that an average of 62 percent of a user’s friends had upgraded. That percentage was calculated by taking the number of friends that have signed up for Timeline, according to this page, and dividing it by a user’s total friend count. This is slightly skewed since Facebook recently changed friend counts to include users who have deactivated their accounts, but in general, it’s clear there is a significant portion of users who haven’t switched, despite Facebook’s efforts over the past six months.

In December, Facebook began showing prompts on the profiles of users who switched to the new look. Facebook provided early access to celebrities including Britney Spears, and it continues to promote the pages of public figures who use Timeline. In order to use new Open Graph applications, such as social readers and music streaming services, users must upgrade their profiles. The social network has also tried running stories in News Feed about users changing their cover photos or adding places to their map, features that are only available with Timeline. This has been a much slower and deliberate rollout than Timeline for pages, which Facebook made mandatory for all page owners within one month.

Offering an extended opt-in period and promoting discovery through friends seems to have worked well for the first 50 to 80 percent of users, but it’s unclear how Facebook will transition the final group of holdouts.