Facebook yesterday officially announced that over the "next few weeks" it will roll out Timeline to all users. This means Timeline, the reverse-chronological display of a user's history on Facebook and other life events, which replaces and combines a user's Facebook Wall and Profile, will become non-optional. No specific date was given, and the language used ("roll out") suggests that the change won't occur on one single date for all users, but that batches of users will be transitioned on different dates.
Before Timeline strikes your Facebook account, there are a number of key things to know about the feature.
Basically, until recently, users were able to opt-in to Timeline; now they will be automatically switched over. When you get Timeline, however, you'll have a seven-day preview period, during which you can delete the content that is on your profile and hide what you don't want displayed."
From the time you receive notification that you'll be getting Timeline, whether you want it or not, you have seven days—or until you hit "publish," whichever comes first—to check it out privately, before anyone else can see it. You can also jump the queue and turn Timeline on now (see "How to Get Timeline"), but do note that once you turn it on, you can't turn it off.
I turned on Timeline early, back in September, to learn as much as I could about it and put together some answers and tips for people when Timeline became non-optional. Here's a summary of what I've learned. You can also take a tour of Timeline in the slideshow, in case you want to get a closer look at some of the editing option and other buttons without turning it on.
Q: What is Facebook Timeline?
A: Timeline is a section of a Facebook user's account that replaces the Profile and Wall pages, and merges them together. It shows the story of your life, as you choose to tell it or as Facebook has recorded it, in a visual, scrolling, reverse-chronologically ordered timeline. It's a cross between visual blog and online scrapbook. Fun fact: Facebook Timeline was accidentally released very briefly to the public back in December 2010 when it was called "Facebook Memories," but it was promptly removed.
Q: How can I get Facebook Timeline?
A: Go to the Facebook Timeline announcement page and look at the bottom of the page for a green button that says "Get Timeline." If you press this button, there is no undo! And if you don't take this step, Facebook will automatically turn on your Timeline within the next few weeks.
Q: What appears on my Timeline?
A: Status updates, photos, friendships made, as well as job history, marital status changes, and other information that you've recorded in your profile.
Q: Is the Timeline replacing my Facebook wall?
A: Yes. Timeline replaces your Profile and Wall. But it does not change your news feed page. When you log into Facebook and go to Facebook.com, that feed page of Recent Stories will still be the same. But, when you or visitors go to your unique Facebook URL, such as facebook.com/jillduffyNYC, they'll be able to see your Timeline instead of your old profile information and wall.
Q: How do I edit what appears on Timeline and who can see it?
Every Timeline entry has two icons for editing: a pen icon in the upper right corner where you can hide or delete the object, and a cog or silhouette (depending on the type of object) found next to the time or date of the activity, that lets you adjust who can see the activity. See the image above for an example. Additional images in the slideshow illustrate these two editing principles in more detail.
Q: Can I restrict which people who can see certain pieces of information, photos, and other details of my Timeline?
A: Yes! In the same way that you can manage who can see a status update or photo, you can limit who sees all the entries of your Timeline. Each entry has a drop-down menu next to it that lets you filter who can see the item.
Q: Can I delete status updates, images, and other content from my Timeline?
A: Yes! Deleting is an option. Just click that pen icon to edit, and you'll see "delete."
Q: When will I be forced to have Timeline?
A: If you don't have Timeline yet, you will be forced to have it "in the next few weeks," according to Facebook. The company has not given any more specific information. And from the day you get Timeline, you have seven days to see it privately before other users can see it.
Q: It sounds like you've used Facebook Timeline a lot. How is it?
A: I must admit that I liked playing with it a lot more than I liked filling in standard profile information. I set up Timeline on a Facebook account that doesn't have too much data in it, so it didn't feel overwhelming, but I could see how an active Facebook user would feel totally bowled over the first time he or she opened the Timeline. If you have thousands of status updates and photos on Facebook, you could be in for a very busy seven days between the time you are forced to have Timeline and the day it goes live for all to see.
You will want to use those seven days to tease your Timeline into shape, adding the permissions you want, deleting or marking private images you don't want everyone to see, and so forth.
But remember, by and large, this is a one-time setup process. After the one-time setup, new Timeline entries will come from your Facebook activity, and you'll be adding permissions and making other adjustments as you go. In other words, you have the tools to edit who can see what every time you put something on Facebook, and those permissions carry over onto Timeline. But, in the earlier days of Facebook, no one had those permission settings, so all old materials is public to all by default.
Other parts of Timeline that I like: that you can add life events, either current or back-dated. Some of the life events are pre-set in Facebook, like getting a new job and buying a home, but you can also create a custom life event or milestone.
Back-dating entries is great for photos. Say you post an old photo from 10 years ago. You can add the year 2002 so it shows up on Timeline with some sense of chronology and context.
You can back-date entries on your timeline with a nice calendar that lets you quickly jump to a year in the past, and optionally, you can add a month. If you want to add a memory from your childhood or back-date photos from your past, it's pretty easy to do so.
Q: What are some of the cons to Facebook Timeline?
A: The biggest cons: It's mandatory, or non-optional. You have only seven days from the date your forced to have Timeline to when it is visible to all to review what's on it.
A minor con is that the dimensions for display images are unconventional, and I found that I didn't like how most of my images looked when I uploaded them without manipulating their size and dimensions. You can drag an image around the viewer space, but you can't crop or resize from directly within Facebook. (I'm taking bets now on how soon Facebook will build an image editor, or acquire a company that already makes one.)
Q: What is Timeline Apps integration?
Timeline Apps integration lets you post to Facebook Timeline the activities that you do in other apps. There are about 80 apps supported right now. For example, if you allow the Web site Pinterest permission to post to your Timeline (and yes, you have to turn it on; it's off by default), Pinterest will create a little box on your Timeline where it shows your Pinterest activity. Another example: You can set up the Wall Street Journal online to post to Timeline when you have read an article. Or you have have Spotify post to Timeline when you listen to a song. It's basically the same as apps activity in the Facebook Ticker, but on your Timeline.