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).