New Format Draws Traffic to Other Sites at User’s Expense
Every time Facebook forces radical change on its users, news feeds overflow with status updates demanding a return to its previous format. Timeline, a new Facebook design that displays a user’s entire history in reverse chronological order, is generating more backlash than simple grumbling comments. Easier accessibility to a user’s history means that privacy on the site is becoming increasingly obsolete.
By allowing access to a user’s entire history with a few simple clicks, Timeline raises many privacy concerns. A poll of 4,100 Facebook users done by security research firm Sophos revealed that over 50 percent of users are worried about the new format. Although users can change privacy settings to keep profiles solely viewable between friends, settings tend to reset each time Facebook alters their layout. This renders once-private information public without users realizing it.
Also troubling is Timeline's ability to publish a user's activity from other websites without the user realizing it. People may simply be poking around different Yahoo news articles or listening to songs on the music streaming site Spotify, not knowing that a digital trail of their online activity is unfolding on their news feeds. This is a shameless ploy by third parties to create traffic on their sites. Although Facebook is pushing Timeline as a way to preserve memories and the chronicle of life, not everyone wants every little detail from the time they joined Facebook to be so easily accessible. Now young college graduates attempting to enter the professional world need to worry not only about the pictures posted from last night’s party, but also the pictures from that party freshman year. The implementation of Timeline means that people’s entire pasts — including their less-than-proud moments — are up for judgment by anyone.
Timeline Prompts a Movement to Other Networks
The Facebook Wall will be gone soon, replaced by Timeline. The new feature has been available to users since December, but some chose not to activate it then due to discomfort with its design or worries about privacy. The Timeline reveals to us just how much of our lives are broadcasted online. But with numerous social networking alternatives rising up to the level of Facebook, we need not fear that our days of wall posts, events pages and stalking our friends’ photos are over.
New changes include the end of the Facebook Wall, a cover photo, over 60 new apps which track what users do on other websites and an activity log which shows everything the user has done on the website since joining it. Timeline gives users a healthy reality check by showing them just how much about themselves they are revealing online — and how they should think twice before agreeing to use an app, posting a photo or comment or linking an organization's page.
However, if Facebook stops being attractive to users, users can abandon it for other social networking websites. In just under a month after its July 2011 release, Google+ became the fastest social network to reach 25 million users. Today, the website already has over 100 million users and continues to grow quickly. There is also a trend towards more specialized networks: LinkedIn for the networkers, Tumblr for the young crowd, Flickr for the artists and Twitter for those who prefer the simple layout. Facebook is quickly regressing to become merely a tool to converge all of these other networks.
The Timeline will soon be mandatory for everyone on Facebook, but that will not stop disgruntled users from leaving the website. Without users, Facebook loses its value.
Senior Staff Writer