A Guide to Facebook's Announcements

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook's updates will allow for a completely new class of social apps

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Mark Zuckerberg roared out of the gates at the f8 developers conference with a new set of features that signals a new era for Facebook. It starts with a new profile design, Timeline, but as it's a developers conference, the real changes are happening under-the-hood. The features won't go public for a few weeks, but it looks they'll radically change how the world uses Facebook. With a new class of applications, designed to make the web more social. Zuckerberg made a bold statement, "We're creating a brand new language for how people connect."


At face value--pun unavoidable--Facebook's new Timeline view looks kind of a like a visual autobiography, an automatic scrapbook of sorts. As such, Zuckerberg described Timeline as a way for Facebook users to tell their life stories in an elegant, visual way. At the top is a splashy "cover photo" that you can change as you see fit, followed by a two-pillared stream of updates. Timeline automatically pulls in updates as you post them but also lets you go further back and add important moments. Facebook product manager Samuel W. Lessin offers a full explanation in a blog post and offered up this pretty video:

A New Class of Social Apps

The majority of the rumors leading up to f8 this year revolved around a new media platform. Well, this is it, but Facebook looks like they have much bigger ambitions. The new class of apps looks less like old Facebook apps than they do Apple apps--even the icons look similar. Zuckerberg reiterated three major improvements: frictionless experiences, realtime serendipity, finding patterns. In less jargon-y terms this means that sharing will be easier; discovering what your friends are up to will happen faster, more pleasantly randomly; and filtering out the signal that you want to hear from the noise that you want to ignore will work better.
Zuckerberg walks through the new class of apps with five categories: Music, Movies, News, Games and Lifestyle. Spotify earned the opportunity to represent the music industry with a quick demo. When your friends are using the Spotify app, the new Facebook Ticker shows what they're listening to, and with one click, you can listen to. Netflix CEO and Facebook board member Reed Hastings, repped for the movie categories, suggesting similar functionality. For News, Zuckerberg called out launch partners Yahoo News, The Washington Post (whose owner Don Graham is also a Facebook board member) and The Daily, all of whom have built apps that allow you to read their content without ever leaving Facebook. Games look especially neat with faster ways to make your move in Words with Friends and so forth. Finally, there's lifestyle which looks much more mobile-centric. The lifestyle updates let you can share what they're doing, when they're doing it--going for a hike, eating a sandwich, painting a picture--and looks like a big boon for non-media app makers.
In brief, the new class of social apps streamlines sharing into an experience and language that feels more natural. To return to Zuckerberg's opening comments about language, the Like button let you add nouns to your profile: Mark Likes Food, Mark Likes Jay-Z, Mark Likes Brogramming. (Ok, technically gerunds, too.) The new iteration of the social graph adds verbs: Mark Ate a Bison Burger, Mark Listened to "Empire State of Mind," Mark Watched Hackers. Now, the onus is on developers to build apps that to work within this language. In the meantime, another pretty video:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.