It’s Facebook’s morning in Silicon Valley, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes the stage for the company’s F8 developer conference in San Francisco. A live stream of the keynote can be found here, and I’ll be on the ground in San Francisco bringing you updates here while my colleague Robert Andrews in London takes in the address accompanied by key Facebook partners. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
– Late start: The keynote has been announced as five minutes away three times now, so stay tuned.
– Beginning with a joke: Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live actually opened the F8 keynote with a hit-and-miss routine pretending to be Zuckerberg.
– Profiles are now Timelines: Once the jokes had run their course, Zuckerberg took the stage to announce Timelines, or what he called “the story of your life.” It’s an update to the profile page that Zuckerberg said is “the heart of the Facebook experience,” and it’s a significant redesign of the profile page. “All your stories, all your apps, a new way to express who you are,” said Zuckerberg roughly seven times. He has clearly been taking presentation lessons from Steve Jobs.
The new Timeline page is designed to prevent profile updates from disappearing off the end of your page, storing more profile updates and photos. As you go back in your Facebook history, the Timeline will summarize some of the highlights from that year to “tell the whole story of your life on a single page,” Zuckerberg said. You can click on photos or videos to sort your Timeline by a single type of content.
– Apps in Timelines: Facebook has changed the way that third-party apps display content in your timeline, rather than forcing the user to create boxes to display their favorite apps, Zuckerberg said. “The reason why you’re adding these apps is because you’re adding stuff to your Timeline,” he said. App development has changed as well, but it sounds like we’re going to get into that later.
– New open graph, new apps: Zuckerberg showed off a new version of its Open Graph: “you don’t have to ‘like’ a book, you can just ‘read’ a book,” he said. Facebook is adding verbs, basically. You’ll be able to “listen” to a piece of content and have that populate your news feed to share it with your friends, and this will live in the “ticker,” the right-hand side mini-news feed that was launched earlier this week. Content that you listen to or read will first appear in that ticker feed without clogging up the actual news feed unless there’s a particular pattern.
“We think this is going to allow you to build a completely new kind of social apps than before,” Zuckerberg said. Most Facebook apps center around communication and games, but now Facebook is adding “media,” including music, movies, and TV shows, as well as “lifestyle apps” that let Facebook users share activity around exercise, cooking, travel, and the like.
The marketing language is flying fast and furious: Zuckerberg promised these news apps would deliver a “frictionless experience” and “realtime serendipity.” Friends can see what their friends are listening to and listen along with them through Spotify, or you can leave comments on that kind of activity. Those kind of updates will show up in the right-hand ticker and opposed to the most prominent news feed.
“Developers are using Open Graph to rethink the music industry,” Zuckerberg said. Daniel Ek of Spotify is coming on stage to join Zuck. Ek said that Spotify’s goal was to help people discover more music while fairly compensating artists, and that Facebook provided one of the best platforms with which to accomplish that goal. Expect to see greater collaboration between Facebook and Spotify in the future.
– Video and Netflix: Just like music companies, video companies are realizing that they can find new business models by helping people discover more video content, Zuckerberg said. He brought Reed Hastings of Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) up on stage to talk about his experiences noting how friends and colleagues discussed the shows they were watching on Facebook. Hastings said a social version of Netflix is available around the world, but not yet available in the U.S. because of what he called an outdated privacy law. Stay tuned for a Netflix blog post with more details on how Netflix will integrate with Facebook in the U.S.
– All that’s fit to share: News sites are going to use the new version of the Open Graph to change the way that people share news articles on Facebook, Zuckerberg said. It sounds like Facebook wants to promote the ticker discussed above as a real-time news feed, which will probably catch Twitter’s attention. Several news organizations and aggregators are on board, including Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), Huffington Post, and Flipboard.
– Before they come, you must build it: Facebook CTO Bret Taylor took the stage to explain to the assembled crowd of developers how this will actually work. It’s going to take some time for Timelines to roll out to Facebook’s huge user base, he said.
“Adding an app to your timeline is a real-time experience,” Taylor said. When a user discovers an app, either through a friend’s timeline or through a brand’s Facebook page, they just click on a button that says “add to Timeline.” It’s not clear whether users will be given any kind of warning as to what types of information the app will be able to access from your Facebook account, which is what happens now when you go to install an app on your Facebook profile.
Six different layout styles will be available to developers for choosing how they want to present the social content within their app, and the best apps will be the ones that were designed for sharing from the first line of code, Taylor said.
App discovery is always a huge problem in this modern app world, and Facebook has come up with an artificial intelligence engine called Graph Rank that helps order apps and app activity. App developers will be able to see which parts of their app are resonating with users and which parts are duds, allowing developers to fine-tune their apps based on that feedback.
– Why is Facebook doing this?: Chris Cox, Facebook’s director of product management, took the stage next to explain why Facebook decided to rethink the Timeline. “Infographics have become part and parcel of the way we express news in modern-day times,” Cox said, pointing out that complicated stories or concepts can sometimes be best explained with visual images, turning data into a visual narrative.
A graphics designer named Nicholas Feltron was working on graphics for end-of-year issues that magazine publishers love when he wondered what such a graphic would look like for a person: a one-year summary of the highlights of their year. Facebook loved the idea, and hired Feltron to work on what became the new Timeline.
The whole idea has been to take scrapbooking and bring it into the modern era, Cox said. “It starts with having all your stuff in one box,” he said.
– When do the changes roll out?: Zuckerberg retook the stage to explain that Timeline will be available as a beta for developers as of the end of this keynote, and it will start rolling out to everybody over the next few weeks. The new apps described above will arrive along with Timeline, so it sounds like this will be a gradual process. Certain news-reader and music apps will launch right away.
– In closing: Zuckerberg finished off talking about Intel (NSDQ: INTC) and Moore’s Law, and how that concept of pushing the envelope and finding out what’s possible set the direction for the technology industry. Facebook sees itself as a bridge between the technology industry and social issues, he said, and it will allow the company a unique viewpoint into what’s coming down the road.