Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Facebook’s f8 2011: This Is Your Life

Team AllThingsD is on site for Facebook’s f8 developer conference, at the normally dumpy San Francisco Design Concourse which is today decked out with snazzy doodads like live-updating displays and RFID-activated Facebook photo tagging booths. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is about to take the stage to pitch his company’s latest efforts to socialize the Web, which will include partnerships with a bunch of sites to automatically share everything users read, watch and listen to that should result in a massive jump in sharing. Here’s our live account:

10:10 am: After all that hurry to get in here, the announcer lady says we have five more minutes to wait. Some last-minute backstage coding going on?

10:16 am: Andy Samberg!

Welcome to f8, says Samberg, in Zuckerberg character per his SNL skit.

Let’s start with some key issues: The first is the importance of authentic identity. “I am Mark Zuckerberg.”

Crowd = loving it

He has a growth chart out, says Facebook has so many users it stopped counting.

Samberg on the growth of Facebook sharing. Says people share everything on Facebook except when they “take a crazy big #2.” Nope, “that’s for Twitter.”

He’s actually really on point, talking about the new section of Facebook called “I’m Not Really Friends With These People.”

Real Zuckerberg now here, says “Andy, what the hell are you doing?” Awkward banter, awkward banter.

Tortured joke about Samberg failing to follow Zuckerberg’s directions via earpiece, but Zuck says Facebook would say this is an example of “user error.” Which is a pretty good punchline.

10:24 am: OK, keynote starts for reals.

“What I’m going to show you today are two things we’ve been working on for a while.”

Just last week, pretty cool milestone, says Zuckerberg: in a single day, half a billion people used Facebook.

“The next era of social networking is going to be defined by the apps and the depth of engagement now that everyone has their networks in place.”

10:26 am: First topic: the profile.

“People feel an intense ownership over their profile … It’s a really personal product.”

Zuck: Original Facebook profile didn’t have groups, events, or a wall. But people felt safe on the Internet expressing their real self.

If the first five minutes is about starting the conversation, the next 15 is about all the things you’ve shared and done recently. “But the problem is, we’re more than what we did recently.” You could go down to the bottom of the wall and press more to see a few weeks more of content, but who wants to do that?

“Millions of people have spent years curating their lives but today there’s no way to share it. We think that’s a real problem.”

“Now is the heart of the Facebook experience, completely rethought from the ground up. We’re calling it ‘Timeline.’ Timeline is the story of your life: all your stories, all your apps, and a new way to express who you are.”

New profile looks completely different. Uh-oh, cue user backlash!

Zuckerberg scrolls through his life on Facebook, back to being born in 1984. Then he shows the mobile interface, which is significant, since Facebook often neglects mobile when things launch.

Timeline shows a fuller view of the present and a summary view of the past, says Zuckerberg. It looks like a sort of tiled scrapbook, with big photos.

“This is exactly how you want to browse through time,” says Zuckerberg with his characteristic understatedness.

There’s also an interface for adding major life events, like getting a pet.

10:36 am: There’s also a map view: see everywhere you’ve been on a world map view, using a slider to filter by year.

“Since timeline helps you summarize things, no activity is too big or too little to share.”

10:39 am: Another feature is a summary of everything you’ve done with a single app, called “Reports.”

Zuckeberg is using fake apps called “Social Cooking” and “Social Running” to demo this stuff. I wonder why he didn’t just highlight a few partners.

“Timeline is a completely new aesthetic for Facebook,” Zuckerberg continues. First you have a big cover photo, different from a profile picture. In his case, it’s a picture of his dog.

“You have complete control over everything in your timeline,” Zuckerberg says, showing how users can emphasize or hide items, and change privacy settings.

Scrolling through some sample timelines: “You just get this nice visceral feel for who this person is.”

10:46 am: End scene. Applause for Timeline.

A demo video shows the whole life of a guy named Andy Sparks. I wonder if he’s real!

For more on Timeline, check out this story we just posted.

10:48 am: Part two: “Facebook’s vision is to make the world more open and connected. … We often talk about this map as a graph of connections … Last year we introduced the concept of the open graph … This year we’re taking the next step. We’re going to make it so you can connect to anything you want, in any way you want.”

“Now, you don’t have to like a book, you can just read a book. Which is probably good, because you’ve probably read 10 times as many books as you’ve liked.”

“We’re helping define a brand-new language for how people connect.” What he means: first, Facebook got people to give their names, then it added nouns of things they did, now it’s adding verbs of what they do.

But people don’t like to annoy their friends by sharing everything they do, so the Ticker takes care of lightweight sharing, Zuckerberg said.

“Before today, there was really no socially acceptable way to express lightweight activity. And now there is. And we think it’s going to make it possible to share an order of magnitude more things and activities.”

More understatement: “We think this is going to make it possible to build a completely new class of apps that wasn’t possible before.”

After communication and games, Facebook now wants to support media and lifestyle apps.

This new platform doesn’t require prompts to share with friends, like those totally over-used by social gaming apps. Zuckerberg says he’s happy about this too.

Now, when you log into an app, you can say whether or not you want its activity to be added to your timeline. So the app won’t prompt you every time you do something.

This will enable “real-time serendipity,” Zuckerberg says, because you’ll see what your friends are doing live.

You can see that a friend is listening to a song in your Ticker, and then can click to listen yourself, and then your friends will see them in their Tickers.

11:00 am: Also: you can see patterns develop over time. So on a friend’s Timeline, you can click to see all their music listening history — their top artist, song, album, etc. “By looking at patterns in your friends’ activity you can discover some really neat new things.”

Zuckerberg is demoing song sharing. I can’t tell whether music clicked on through a friend’s status or chat is played through an outside app or within the page. Will follow up on this later.

11:05 am: Now Daniel Ek from Spotify gets on stage.

“We used to go to our friends’ houses to browse their record collections,” says Ek — Zuckerberg snickers — “but we haven’t been able to do this online.”

Spotify users who connect to Facebook listen to more music and a wider variety of music, and are more than twice as likely to pay for it, says Ek.

Now, video: Zuckerberg showing Netflix and Hulu on Facebook — the Netflix player pops up directly on the page when he clicks on status about a friend having watched it.

Now for Wall Street’s current favorite CEO: Reed Hastings!

Hastings says he hadn’t gotten around to watching “Breaking Bad” despite everyone telling him it was great. But when he saw his friend was watching it in his ticker yesterday, he actually did it. Social “trumped the algorithm,” Hastings says.

Hastings says he was initially suspicious of bringing viewing within Facebook, but Zuckerberg convinced him that it could drive huge growth. But Netflix on Facebook will only be available in 44 of 45 of the countries Netflix serves, until the U.S. Congress changes a privacy law, which it may be doing soon.

Time for a partner chart! My partner in crime, Ina, will insert this here in a sec.

Next, news: Yahoo News is redesigning to emphasize stories read by your Facebook friends.

Zuckerberg shows examples on the Washington Post and The Daily. For The Daily, users can click on an item in the stream and read it within Facebook, it looks like. This will help people find breaking news, Zuckerberg says.

And Zuckerberg finally gets around to talking about games, the first big platform success.

Similarly, when you click on a game in the Ticker because your friend is playing it, you can join the game overlaid right on the same screen.

Next, lifestyle apps: Nike+ and Foodspotting are examples.

Zuckerberg shows stats reports for these apps too, and says he’s looking forward to his first annual eating report.

Time for another demo video set to high-energy music! Which is way too loud.

Tagline is “Your apps. Now with friends.”

11:25 am: CTO Bret Taylor comes out to tell app developers what to expect.

Timelines will be “sparse” at the start, he says.

So he’ll want to fill it up with various aspects of his life, like his recipes, his runs, his Kenny G playlists and his programming projects.

“Open graph really is the biggest opportunity for new classes of apps on Facebook since we launched the platform,” Taylor says rather precisely.

Taylor: “Adding an app to your timeline is like wiring a real-time connection between your app and Facebook.”

“There is no step two.”

Taylor is pitching a lack of permissions as a positive — which I’m sure privacy advocates will just love — because it makes apps “frictionless.”

Meanwhile, check out Tricia Duryee’s analysis piece on the impact of Facebook’s new app rules, which allow users to be asked only once if they want to share all future activity.

Taylor says apps should choose their social actions and make their timeline items beautiful.

Facebook has designed “Graph Rank” to figure out what people want to see. Takes into account times of day and different types of relationships with people. “Just because my mom wants to see the movies I’m watching on Netflix doesn’t mean she wants to see my GitHub check-ins,” says Taylor.

App developers will be able to use “Graph Rank” to optimize themselves, Taylor says.

11:40 am: Next on stage: Chris Cox, VP of Product Management

Meet Nick Felton, says Cox. He got “acqhired” by Facebook earlier this year, and is the guy who makes famous yearly information visualizations about his life.

(We’re not actually meeting Felton, we’re just talking about his ideas.) “Infographics have become part and parcel of the way we express news in modern times,” Cox says.

We humans love the concept of “the year in review,” Cox says.

Here’s a profile of Daytum, Felton’s company, that my colleague Drake Martinet wrote before Facebook bought it.

Another acquisition: Sam Lessin. On his first day on the job, says Cox, Lessin called the Facebook profile the biggest lost opportunity in the history of human history.

Cox says his whole life is on Facebook too — he dropped out of school, moved, launched products, got engaged, got married, got a dog.

(In the AllThingsD peanut gallery, we think that f8 in a few years will be all about sharing stuff about your kids, when Cox and Zuck and the rest start having them.)

Cox: “Timeline really is a blank canvas, it’s big enough for anyone’s story. We have no idea what’s going to happen next. It’s yours to fill out.”

11:54 am: Zuckerberg back on stage to sum up.

“So when is all this gonna launch?”

Timeline beta starts now, he says. Developers can start today and others can sign up to be part of the rollout over the next few weeks.

Music, movies, TV and news apps are launching now, but most apps will come later, after people start using timeline.

Zuckerberg closes by paying tribute to Intel and Moore’s Law, saying it’s important to understand your impact on the world. “We exist at the intersection of technology and social issues, and we spend a lot of time thinking about both.”

It’s an honor to be on this journey with you guys, says Zuckerberg, channeling his inner commencement speaker.

And that’s it! Team ATD is off to go see if Andy Samberg’s still here. I mean … go to the press conference.


Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work