Facebook Timeline: a worthy overhaul, good for privacy

by peter.griffin / 08 December, 2011
Timeline lets you easily purge the digital detritus of your life - or fill in black spots in your history.
Facebook is tweaked and reworked seemingly every few months, so a new update isn't necessarily newsworthy.

However, the new Timeline feature - and the fact that it has been rolled out in New Zealand ahead of the rest of the world, is significant. Timeline signals the most visual overhaul of the Facebook interface so far and seems to be a response to the more visual app-driven interfaces people are increasingly used to.

Timeline lets you install a widescreen photo banner at the top of your Facebook profile and lays out your updates, photos and personal information in a series of boxes. The Timeline name refers to the fact that an entire archive of everything you have posted to Facebook is available for viewing by scrolling along a digital timeline.

Facebook is very much about the fleeting present, the fad of the day, the here and the now. But we forget how much information we are leaving in our trail.

Timeline then is a welcome reminder to browse back over our digital breadcrumbs to see if there's anything compromising or embarrassing that should be purged from public view.

You can edit your timeline, making old posts private before publishing the version you are happy with. In that sense, its one of the more proactive things Facebook has done on the privacy front in a while. You can also add tidbits of info and photos to your historical record. It has shades of 1984 and Winston Smith, the doomed public servant who spent his days erasing the awkward past or inventing new historic events for the party's convenience. But, hey what's the harm in presenting the public face you want others to see?

In general, Timeline lends itself to a more visual, photo-driven presentation of Facebook. It will take a bit of getting used to but will eventually become mandatory for all users so points to the future shape of the world's most popular social network.

App developers will be getting in on the TImeline act, so expect to see some useful add-ons in the coming months.
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