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Last night at the f8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed the company’s ambitious plans to change the social network – and the internet – once again. Spotify integration made its expected appearance, but top of the agenda was the Facebook Timeline, a rejigged profile page which summizes your entire life in chronological order.

It’s an interesting and staggeringly controversial idea, but for me, it missed one absolutely crucial option: the ability to print it out.

I have a feeling Facebook Timeline could prove a huge hit with swathes of the earth’s population, keen to show off a This Is Your Life book to all and sundry. Personally, I find it rather depressing that Facebook is essentially now in the business of backing up people’s lives in the same way you would email.

I hope this is just the start, and that it could do much more. Nicholas Felton is one of the key Facebook employees behind the Timeline. In design and sociology circles, he gained fame some years ago by intricately recording the details of his life, compiling them and breaking them down statistically in a series of annual reports. So much so in fact, that his start up, Daytum.com, was snapped up by Facebook.

You can view them online, but they’re also beautiful, glossy analogue records of what he did in a year, as you can see below. They’re works of science, they’re works of statistics, they’re works of art, and they, more than a blown out series of pictures of you with your arms around your friends in a nightclub, capture what it means to be alive far more gracefully.

Right now, Facebook Timeline does not offer this. But with all the information we willingly (and unwittingly) submit to Facebook each and every single day, would it be so hard to? I don’t think so. You can already tell Facebook what you’re reading, what you’re listening to (The new Spotify integration adds songs, playlists and most listened information to the Timeline), and even what you’re cooking. With all the talented engineers Facebook has assimilated, it’d be perfectly feasible.

There’s a precedent too. For all Apple’s exponential success as a hardware and software company, it still makes money printing off digital photos and cards you’ve designed, and transforming them into wonderful hardback albums, calendars and coffee table talking pieces.

Would it be so hard for Facebook to do the same? You can already upload pictures at print quality resolutions. And as unlikely a fit as it is with everything else the platform does, the ability to have your Timeline printed off as a glossy album or beautiful brochure to rival Felton’s initial reports could prove a wonderful keepsake – and a private one, not something open for all your Facebook “friends” to see (One of the reasons I’m not hugely interested in Timeline as it is).

Sure, it’d be the term Facebook going completely full circle – originally, it was an American expression for a university yearbook – but I don’t think I’d be alone in embracing it.

Zuckerberg’s performance at f8 yesterday was in every other respect about imitating Apple and its keynotes. I’d like to see Facebook mimic Apple in this too: as I’ve said before, digital records can sadly be the most fleeting. The human life is far too important to be recorded solely in the cloud.

Images via citizenjoe and jakeprzespo

  • TomD

    Flipping Spotify app is broken already…so much for the revolution!

  • TomD

    Flipping Spotify app is broken already…so much for the revolution!

  • TomD

    Flipping Spotify app is broken already…so much for the revolution!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Copperwaite/556260563 Richard Copperwaite

    Why is everyone so enthralled by Timeline? Has everyone on Facebook lived a life of sunshine and rainbows? Has everyone stayed exactly the same person as they were when they first joined? I know that’s not the case for me.

    Right now, I’m happy with my current state of affairs and my current list of Facebook contacts. I’m happy to share with them my new developments as I start a new job overseas, I’m happy to share jokes, talk about exciting changes or receive upcoming events. What I am not happy to talk to them about, however, is my past.As a Facebook developer, I got a chance to look back at my own timeline, and it was a painful experience. I saw plenty of good stuff, sure. I saw memorable days and nights out, I saw great laughs, I saw new acquaintances and friendships and relationships being made… but I also saw a different person from who I am today. I saw friendships broken and relationships lost. I saw failed flirtations and public embarrassments. In hundreds of tiny snippets, I saw a posh, reclusive, insecure child who had little hope in his own future.Today, I am a graduate interning as a software developer in California. Most of my current Facebook friends have either forgotten or never knew the person I was when I joined all those years ago. And to be honest, I would much rather keep things that way.But of course, when Facebook unrolls a feature like Timeline, what are people going to do? Naturally, they’re going to ‘start the wayback machine’ and scour through all their friends’ histories. There seems to be no way for someone like me to avoid the oncoming storm without creating a new profile or… leaving Facebook altogether.To be honest, I’m tired of the disaster that Facebook has become. I’m tired of Wikipedia pages that conflict with community pages that conflict with official pages, without a simple way to put all the pieces together. I’m tired of automated friend “lists” that rely on this dreadful disorganisation to do their grouping, and manual lists that demand constant cultivation if they are to be of any use. I’m tired of apps being given more and more liberties, and people being given less and less control. Timeline is the final straw. Facebook… I’m out.

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