Betabeat Reviews: The Terrifying, Awesome New Facebook Timeline

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Today, Facebook unrolled one of the largest front-end changes to the social network in its history: the Facebook Timeline. It’s front and center on your Facebook profile, and the totally revamped design aside, underneath is functionality that allows you to dip back into your own—or other people’s—history, to pinpoint exact dates on everything from uploaded pictures to status updates. In short, it aims to organize the entire history of your life in the most intimidatingly convenient way possible.

It’s currently only available to developers, but you can join that group pretty easily as evidenced by this TechCrunch post, which we used to enable Facebook Timeline moments ago. The team’s spit-takes on neu-Facebook, in chronological order:

ADRIANNE JEFFRIES: I remember when Facebook wiped everyone’s “interests” — like every interest or movie you listed had to be linked to a page for that thing, so you could no longer be interested in “pounding beers” unless there was a page or group for pounding beers. This was annoying because it took some of the personality out of your profile ( I don’t even remember what interests I had listed, but I’m sure they were really clever) and it also reminded you that Facebook was tracking all this data about you. So I went in and listed a bunch of fake interests — Disney movies, music I didn’t like –just to throw a little wrench in Facebook’s data. Now Facebook is giving you the option to retroactively add events to your timeline, which just seems ripe for bullshit.

This also reminds me of the creepy websites that are supposed to be like memorials or online tombs that live on after you. There have been a few kerfuffles about what to do with someone’s page after they die, and sometimes friends will write on their wall and turn it into kind of a memorial. This just seems like it’s going to create a giant encyclopedia of individual life histories. Oversharing from beyond the grave. Like everything Facebook does, it seems insidious in addition to making the skin crawl. VERDICT: 1/5 LIKES. It’s much prettier but I care less and less about Facebook every day. It’s a necessary evil. It will never be fun again.


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BEN POPPER: I love the new Timeline feature, especially the way it shows me I was on Facebook way before Foster, Adrianne or Nitasha (early adopter status, check!).

It doesn’t show me my own first status updates, which is weird, just my first wall post from someone else. Also, it throws me off that my high school graduation is on there, since that was pre-Facebook. It’s like they are colonizing my history, so that Facebook now exists in my life prior to the invention of Facebook. 

My coverage for the years 2005-2006 seems strangely absent. I can’t expand to see more posts, the way I can with years from 2007 on. This is especially weird because this was the time I was probably using Facebook the most, living alone for the first time in a city far from home. Maybe I was spending all my time on Myspace and can’t remember? Can I import that stuff?

People uploaded photos from the 90s throughout my time on Facebook, so they appear in the timeline pegged to an arbitrary year when they hit the net. It takes just a second to change the date, but I don’t know the exact date for most of these images, so I’m just kind of spit balling my history here. Photos in an album tagged Paris 2004 all appear when they were posted in 2010. That’s annoying, but I assume people will just learn to tag photos with the right date when they upload them now.

This is a great visual history of my hairline. The first hints something is amiss. The combover. The lesser know but equally effective comb forward. The short hair. The bald pate. Acceptance.
Here is a real gem from a friend of my ex-girlfriend in 2006. “I only have deep guttural noises right now to express how I feel about you. Gluuuuhh pretty accurately explains what is deep inside me.” Thanks for the memories Facebook! VERDICT: 4/5 LIKES. Sigh, the better Facebook gets, the more work it becomes.

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NITASHA TIKU: At first NewFacePage terrified me because who should appear in that little “Friends” box at the top, but an ex-boyfriend and a possible future boyfriend. So I thought Facebook somehow advanced the algorithm for figuring out who stalks me and vice versa. Then my editor’s page showed up in this same box AS HE WAS LOOKING AT MY SCREEN, so I’m pretty sure the F8 rollout also involved installing a camera in my Observer-issued PC monitor (circa ancient).

Then there’s the matter of the reverse chronology, which zigzags from the left to the right so it’s impossible at first glance to just scan down and see the handful of new updates, especially since’s it’s staggered, so you have to check the tiny “16 minutes” ago timestamps.

JESUS, Foster just told me this is how your wall is going to look from now on? I thought this was supposed to be  an optional “Timeline” view.

VERDICT: 0.5/5 LIKES. I know I got acclimated to every other redesign, but this might be a dealbreaker. Disclosure: I say this every time.

FOSTER KAMER: It’s like Tumblr meets Flavors.Me meets the Wayback Machine in a dark alley, high on crack cocaine, holding a rusty box-cutter. It is crazy and scary and awesome and surely some obscure, depressed, and very dead science fiction writer characterized this exact scenario, where our entire lives’ histories will be held in a machine in some building wherever Facebook’s servers are; my entire life’s history is neighbors with an interstitial ad about a Brad Pitt movie. If you don’t feel reduced by this in some cosmic capacity, you aren’t paying attention. That said, as a working reporter, this will be hysterically fun for stalking subjects. Facebook stalking just got taken to the next level.

The functionality is beautiful, easy, precise. Facebook looks well-designed for the first time since nobody could really have anything on their profiles. That said, certain people in my life are obsessed with Facebook in a way that irks me to no end; pictures must be taken everywhere, tagged and posted before anyone can do anything else, and not just pictures, but pictures one poses for. Not even candid photos. The idea that something must be done not just to seize the moment, and not just for the sake of having a picture, but for the idea of sharing that picture with everyone else always cheapens the value of any moment dramatically for me. So I try not to think about it too much.

This is going to make that problem so much worse, because people won’t just be thinking about capturing a moment, but they’ll be thinking about the way it fits into their life’s chronology as organized by Facebook. VERDICT: 4/5 LIKES. My therapist will be hearing about this.

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  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Kay O. Sweaver says:

    STOP TWEETING! Unnngh.

    All this does it make me think of a flashier, seemingly friendlier of East German/KGB obsessive data collecting about private individuals. Which would be fine if I had access to the data for, oh I don’t know, President Obama and the Koch Brothers for instance, but that won’t happen now will it?

  3. Well the long expected Facebook Timeline is finally being officially released and it’s here to stay! There’s no more escaping this..

    You can enable it right now and make sure what data you let out: