The feature offers users a visual personal history that is similar to a digital scrapbook or vanity license plate. Some have even compared its look to Myspace.
Facebook’s 800 million members can either wait for a notification to pop up on their screen or go to Facebook.com/about/Timeline to get Timeline. Eventually all profiles will switch to the new look. Timeline is also available on touch devices using m.Facebook.com and Facebook for Android.
If you’ve put embarrassing photos or posts on Facebook, you’ll have seven days after switching to Timeline to prune them from your profile before Timeline becomes the default look on your profile page.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called Timeline a way to share life experiences, but it could also become a carrot for marketers and advertisers to target consumers based on their “likes” and devotion to certain brands as Facebook duels with Google+ and other social networks for advertising dollars, analysts say.
R. “Ray” Wang, CEO at Constellation Research, says Timeline should improve the user experience by adding detail and context to one’s profile.
At the same time, Wang cautions, “There’s a growing concern among individuals that Facebook is driving individuals to trade their privacy for convenience without understanding the risks. Can individuals turn it off forever if Facebook still owns the data? What do you do to take yourself out of a Timeline? Is this the beginning of digital extortion?”
Facebook users, who have been historically quick to blanch at new features, seem to be divided into two camps: those who love it and those who loathe it. And, as with previous Facebook features, many users are fretting over the security of their personal data. “It’s almost blog-like, allowing more ownership,” says Stephanie Howell, 25, social media manager at Z Gallerie, a home-furnishing decor company.
Suzie Linville, 33, of Phoenix is concerned about privacy. “You never know who’s going to hack into your page and use that information in a negative manner,” she says. “Once Facebook shows me they are on top of security – I don’t fully believe they are – I’ll go back and check it out.”
© Copyright 2011 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc., Jon Swartz
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