After several weeks of delay, Facebook has finally made Timeline accessible to all users. It was originally unveiled in early September and was scheduled to be public by the end of that month.
Between September and now, it has been available to users who had a developer account, giving Facebook a beta period to let a self-selected group of users test it out and provide feedback. Anyone with a developer account, which is free, could sign up for Timeline and enable it; and they could also see other users who had enabled it with a developer account.
Due to Facebook’s history of not being so forthcoming with users regarding new features and privacy concerns about those features, I put my hands on the new Timeline early, back in September, to learn as much as I could about it and to put together some answers and tips for people when Timeline became publicly available, as it is now.
Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned. If you’re not ready to turn on Timeline for yourself, you can take a tour of it in the slideshow below.
Q: What is Facebook Timeline?
A: Timeline is a new feature in Facebook that replaces the profile page. It shows the story of your life, as you choose to tell it or as Facebook has recorded it, in a visual, scrolling, ordered timeline. It’s a cross between visual blog and online scrapbook. Fun fact: Facebook Timeline was accidentally released very briefly to the public back in December 2010 when it was called “Facebook Memories,” but it was promptly removed.
Q: How can I get Facebook Timeline?
A: Go to the Facebook Timeline announcement page and look at the bottom of the page for a green button that says “Get Timeline.”
Q: What appears on my Facebook Timeline?
A: Status updates, photos, friendships made, as well as job history, marital status changes, and other information that you’ve recorded in your profile.
Q: Is the Facebook Timeline replacing my Facebook wall?
A: Yes and no. Timeline will replace your profile page and wall, only after you opt into it and either publish it or seven days after you enable it.
When you log into Facebook and go to Facebook.com, that feed page of Recent Stories will still be the same. But, when you or visitors go to your unique Facebook URL, such ashttp://www.facebook.com/jillduffyNYC, they’ll be able to see your Timeline instead of your old profile information and wall.
Q: I’m worry about privacy! Who can see my Facebook Timeline?
A: Everyone on Facebook will be able to see your Timeline in general, but not everyone will be able to see every post.
The seven day waiting period between when you sign up for Timeline and when it goes live gives you the opportunity to delete items or change the permission settings post by post, photo by photo, and so on.
Every Timeline entry has a pen icon in the upper right corner where you can edit the permissions. See the image above for an example.
Q: Can I restrict which people who can see certain pieces of information, photos, and other details of my Timeline?
A: Yes! In the same way that you can manage who can see a status update or photo, you can limit who sees all the entries of your Timeline. Each entry has a drop-down menu next to it that lets you filter who can see the item.
Q: Can I delete status updates, images, and other content from my Timeline?
A: Yes! Deleting is an option. Just click that pen icon to edit, and you’ll see “delete.”
Q: When is Facebook Timeline available?
Q: It sounds like you’ve tried out Facebook Timeline. How is it?
A: I must admit that I liked playing with it a lot more than I liked filling in standard profile information. I set up Timeline on a Facebook account that doesn’t have too much data in it, so it didn’t feel overwhelming, but I could see how an active Facebook user would feel totally bowled over the first time he or she opened the Timeline. Thankfully, the Timeline has a “publish” button (much like a blog), so you have an opportunity to spend some time teasing it into shape, adding the permissions you want, deleting or marking private images you don’t want everyone to see, and so forth. If you don’t press the publish button within seven days of setting up your Timeline, however, it will go live automatically!
Most Facebook users, I think, will want to dedicate some time to combing through their information before hitting publish, but it’s by and large a one-time setup process. After the one-time setup, new Timeline entries will come from your Facebook activity, and you’ll be adding permissions and making other adjustments as you go.
I also like how you can add life events, either current or back-dated. Some of the life events are pre-set in Facebook, like getting a new job and buying a home, but you can also create a custom life event or milestone.
Q: What are some of the cons?
A: The dimensions for display images is unconventional, and I found that I didn’t like how most of my images looked when I uploaded them without manipulating their size and dimensions. You can drag an image around the viewer space, but you can’t crop or resize from directly within Facebook. (I’m taking bets now on how soon Facebook will build an image editor, or acquire a company that already makes one.)
You can back-date new entries on your timeline with a nice calendar that lets you quickly jump to a year in the past, and optionally, you can add a month. If you want to add a memory from your childhood or back-date photos from your past, it’s pretty easy to do so.