Facebook revamp sparks off debate

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg smiles during the f/8 conference in San Francisco.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg smiles during the f/8 conference in San Francisco.
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Facebook is trying to evolve from an internet hangout where people share titbits, links and photos to a homestead decorated with the memories, dreams and diversions of its 800 million users.

In what may be the boldest step yet in the company’s seven-year history, Facebook is redesigning its users’ profile pages to create what chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says is a “new way to express who you are”.

It is betting that despite early grumblings, its vast audience will become even more attached to a website that keeps pushing the boundaries.

To that effect, it is introducing new ways for people to connect with friends, brands and games while also sharing details about their lives from the mundane to the intimate.

“If you look at Facebook’s history, obviously they are not afraid of making change,” said Sean Corcoran, an analyst with Forrester Research.

“They have done a lot of big changes in the past and people have gotten upset. But most of the time Facebook has been right.”

Zuckerberg introduced the Facebook “timeline” along with new entertainment and media company partnerships in San Francisco, at the annual f8 conference attended by about 2,000 entrepreneurs, developers and journalists.

The event was also being broadcast to, at one point, more than 100,000 online viewers.

The changes seek to transform how and how much people share things online, just as Facebook has been doing since its scrappy start as a college-only network.

The overhaul also presents a new challenge for Google, which has been scrambling to catch up with the launch of its own a social network, Google Plus, three months ago.

The timeline, which will eventually replace users’ current profile pages, is reminiscent of an online scrapbook filled with the most important photos and text that they have shared on Facebook over the years.

It is where people express their real selves and merge their online and off-line lives even more than they are doing now.

The timeline can go back to include years before Facebook even existed, so users can add photos and events from, say 1995 when they got married or 1970 when they were born. Users can also add also music, maps and other content next to their memories.

“This radical redesign shows Facebook isn’t done becoming what it wants to become,” said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson. “In some respects, Google Plus almost looks dated now.”

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