When Will Facebook Open Up the Public Timeline?

Facebook announced yesterday that it is merging user profiles and fan profiles starting now and allowing users to make their updates public if they so choose at some point in the (presumably not too distant) future.

One major possible result of these changes? The creation of a vast new public timeline (a la Twitter) that would allow marketers, developers, and researchers to get a global view on what people are (publicly) saying and sharing on Facebook in a very detailed way for the first time ever.

If Facebook were to open APIs similar to Twitter’s, a public timeline would enable an entirely new class of real-time Facebook applications designed to mine the rich data that’s flowing through Facebook all the time:

  • Search
  • Content discovery
  • Content aggregation/management
  • and so on…

Such a tool could obviously be used by marketers and application developers to understand what users are publicly saying about their brand and sharing through Facebook applications, respectively. An entire ecosystem of such tools has been developed to monitor the Twitter timeline for people in public relations.

Will Facebook turn on a public timeline, and if so, when? I don’t know, but it seems like Facebook is moving with a lot of momentum down the real-time stream path. As Mark Zuckerberg wrote today:

As people share more, the timeline gets filled in more and more with what is happening with everything you’re connected to. The pace of updates accelerates. This creates a continuous stream of information that delivers a deeper understanding for everyone participating in it. As this happens, people will no longer come to Facebook to consume a particular piece or type of content, but to consume and participate in the stream itself.

David Recordon, one of the most dedicated advocates of open technology movements like OpenID (which Facebook officially joined last month), said yesterday he expects that, “By the end of the year Facebook will become the most open social network on the social web.” Perhaps a public timeline will be a part of that progression.