Facebook Timeline: What You Need to Know


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Your Facebook page is about to get a complete facelift.

Facebook revealed Thursday that its long-awaited profile redesign known as Timeline is now available for all users to try out. Anyone with an account has the option to sign up for the new profiles now by going to Facebook.com/timeline and clicking the “Get Timeline” button at the bottom of the page. Otherwise, they can wait for a notification to pop up at the top of their profile in the coming days alerting them to the change.

Facebook first teased the redesign at a developers conference in September, saying that Timeline would be available within “a few weeks.” However, the company only started rolling out the service earlier this month to a tiny portion of its users in New Zealand.

Once you sign up for Timeline, you’ll have seven days to test it out and format it to your liking before the changes automatically become visible to your friends. If seven days sounds like more than enough time, keep in mind that Timeline isn’t just a visual redesign, it also completely overhauls the information that is visible to your contacts on the social network. That means it’s time to rethink your profile.

Timeline effectively transforms the traditional Facebook profile from a simple page on a website to an all-encompassing scrapbook of a person’s life. At the top of the page, users now have space to place a large landscape picture in addition to their profile photo. Beneath that, there are thumbnails highlighting your friends, photos, a map of where you’ve visited or checked in and the posts you’ve liked on Facebook, as well as additional thumbnails you can add to this row like subscriptions and subscribers, all of which could be seen on the old profile but are now more prominent.

In terms of privacy, the most significant change is the timeline that appears to the right of this top section, which is the namesake of the new redesign. With the pre-Timeline design, the most recent posts are the most visible on the page so that any photos or updates added more than a few weeks or months back tend to get buried from view. As soon as you get Timeline though, anyone who can see your profile will have the option to click on a particular month and year and see all the posts from that time period.

It’s this section that users will need to spend the most time curating before it officially publishes within seven days. Facebook’s goal here is to get its members to tell their life’s story on the site –  in fact, you can add details and photos of important “life events” to this timeline even from before you joined Facebook. But as has always been the case, you need to be mindful of any embarrassing or incriminating details you add to the site that could come back to haunt you.

If there is a photo album of you drinking in college that was posted several years ago, which you assumed no one would find, now is the time to go back and un-tag yourself. If you posted status updates ranting about a bad boss or said something controversial about a political issue, go back and delete it or else select the option to remove it from Timeline. It’s easier now than ever before to unearth these details.

Aside from the Timeline feature, you should also take a minute to review the applications you have set up on the site to make sure you’re comfortable with the information being public. With Timeline, the majority of the page – commonly referred to as the wall –  highlights your most recent activity on apps like Spotify and Netflix alongside the status updates and pages you’ve liked. This may not be a privacy breach, but it does mean more people may notice if you watch a particularly bad film.

The goal of Timeline is to get you to curate your life, and as any good curator knows, sometimes less is more.

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at Seth.Fiegerman@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.

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