Dear Facebook, Your New Timeline Has Those ‘Boxes’ That Everyone Used to Hate

Years ago, Facebook f8 sounded like an unnecessary hype-building exercise put on by a seemingly megalomaniacal Mark Zuckerburg. ¬†Today, it’s an annual celebration to raise fury over the inevitable change he announces (news feeds, redesigns, apps) at the event. ¬†This year, it’s the Facebook Timeline, and once again, I’m ready to post a few status updates (and Tweets) to point out how this thing looks like a rebranding of what Facebook looked like 3 years ago.

If any of you have been on Facebook for over 3 years, you know that we used to have something called Application Boxes.  If not, let me reiterate the experience for you.

You were a Facebook user in 2008. ¬†You would install all these new burgeoning applications that had just recently flooded your peaceful Facebook world. ¬†The problem was — like locusts that leave vestigial eggs —¬†every time¬†you installed an application, the app would install a ‘profile box’ on your Facebook profile, which was meant to show off your best scores or latest activity in the application. ¬†As an app developer at the time, I know that these were key ways to ‘go viral’. ¬†The world of apps was filled with simplistic applications that did nothing but rotate a picture of a hot babe, cool car or new celebrity on your profile page every day. ¬†And understandably, everyone’s page got so cluttered that people could barely see a thing.

So imagine my surprise when I looked at today’s Facebook Timeline and saw that the plan was to have boxes again! ¬†You can see right on their demo image shown below that app developers are going to have the opportunity to let you ¬†put your boxes on your page, and while this seems quaint in the demo, it’s going to clutter up the design again. ¬†Also, maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the timeline itself already look a bit confusing? ¬†The box on the left side shows some recent photos from late August, and then the boxes along the right show some more photos from earlier in August. ¬†So this is a dual-column timeline where it snakes from the top left to the right? ¬†Oh, that makes sense now, thanks (/sarcasm).

Anyway, the truth is that I think boxes have some sort of potential but Facebook needs to work ¬†hard to ensure that they have locks so users can very easily shift and remove boxes when they need to. ¬†Even better, give people only 3 boxes. ¬†It’s sad but it’s true, but Facebook is like China… You’d better limit the people’s ability to reproduce (boxes) or you’ll end up with a cluttered mess (probably).