Facebook: The Meaning of Change

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“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be…”

– Isaac Asimov

As an early Facebook user and observer, one thing I can consistently say about Facebook is that it is always ready for another change. Whether you are a Facebook Application developer, a Facebook marketer, or a Facebook user – all of us have learned to adapt and roll with the punches. We have also learned to look ahead and watch for new changes that fit the longer term Facebook vision.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”

– Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

What is also true, is that despite all of these changes there are certain core principles and strategies which remain the same, and if anything, have become more important to recognize.

Facebook = Personal Profile + Newsfeed + Apps

In its early days Facebook looked hardly like it does today. The personal profile, newsfeed, and apps were co-mingled on the same page in separate boxes. The user had the opportunity to move and customize these boxes, making their page quite unique based on their interests.

Facebook Circa 2007-8

Rise of the Newsfeed

In its next major iteration, Facebook introduced and prioritized the newsfeed as a user experience. The personal profile became less important, and all of those apps were pushed into tabs and eventually removed altogether when tabs were phased out of personal profiles. Fan Pages followed the same design path only they kept tabs which could be used to customize the user experience and add special functionalities and promotions.

Facebook Circa 2009

Facebook Circa 2010-11

NOTE: You can see more screen shots of Facebook through time, including the ones from 2004 when it was called “thefacebook”, by going here: http://devilsworkshop.org/facebook-design-20042011-timeline-screenshots/

The Personal Profile Becomes a Timeline

Once the newsfeed focus became established, re-design attention turned to the personal profile.
This resulted in the Timeline which was announced in 2011 and has since been rolled out to all users. The timeline is ultimately an expression of ones complete social life on Facebook – and if you are real fanatic, a documentation of your life from birth to death – and all your friends (old girlfriends/boyfriends included) and the activities in-between.

Facebook Circa 2011


Timeline: The Story of Your Company or Brand

Now Facebook’s attention has turned back to Fan Pages. Just like the personal profile, Fan Pages will use the Timeline and can provide a full history of your company or brand (see Red Bull http://www.facebook.com/redbull for a great example). While for some they may have a history they would rather forget, for most companies the Timeline offers an opportunity to tell the larger story. The tabs for your Apps have been re-configured, allowing a few to be highly visible as “chicklets” along the top – but others are hidden almost completely.


So What Do These Latest Changes Mean?

The new Timeline approach to pages has been generally welcomed by opinion makers, however here are some further thoughts on what this change means to a marketer in an article we post to Chief Marketer this past week:

READ: The Marketing Potential of Facebook’s Timeline