Facebook Timeline gets rolled out: here come the complaints

 

When Facebook went to a new layout three years ago, plenty of people—myself included—went to an anti-new Facebook group. Most were there because they didn’t like change, threatened to leave, and failed to carry out their threat. It was like those who said they would stop reading tabloids after the Princess of Wales died—as circulation rose the following year.

I joined not because I disliked the change—I thought the redesign was quite good—but because Facebook never did any testing and we were the guinea pigs. The new design was about as reliable as a Wall Street banker, and given it kept failing, I joined to voice my opposition.

No such issue with Timeline, at least not till regularly. Having been on it for two months, I haven’t come across the concerns the majority have—at all.
Here are a few I’ve heard, including in the mainstream media.

My privacy is compromised. How? Timeline has exactly the same settings as Facebook had, prior to Timeline’s introduction. I didn’t like these new settings when they were introduced in mid-September, because I was used to shutting my wall off to certain people (e.g. those having a company name on a personal account—yes, I did want to hear from the company, but no, I don’t know who runs the account), but I could see the merit of having public posts which rendered such a setting irrelevant.
If there was a time to complain, it was three months ago. If you’re complaining now, you’re well late. I doubt Facebook will make any changes since relatively few of us made any complaints when the privacy settings were changed last quarter. Those of us who knew were probably spending more time figuring them out and protecting ourselves.

People can now see what I posted x years ago at an instant. Among the changes was a setting that allowed you to restrict all past posts. That was a new privacy entry that wasn’t there before September. Use it and restrict them to yourself, or yourself and your closest friends. I never had this problem, since Facebook always had different classes of friends—at least since I joined in April 2007—and my statuses were always customized to different audiences.

People can now go back to a particular year and find out more about me. True, but see above.

It’s ugly. This is one I have some sympathy with. Design is subjective, and there is some merit to the argument that Timeline introduces extra elements on to the page (see below). So in some ways, I can understand this complaint, but, I rather like the idea of a “timeline” going down the middle, and I can see why Facebook used the two columns: to minimize the need to scroll.

I can’t go back to the old Facebook. I always thought it was clear that when you changed, that was it. Every time Facebook has changed, there was no going back—so why should Timeline be any different?

As usual, my problems with Timeline seem to be different to those of the general public.

Why two friends’ boxes? When Timeline was introduced in September, it was actually cleaner than it is now. There was one friends’ box: in the header. Last week, when it was rolled out to New Zealand, a second box was introduced that was completely superfluous.

I joked that this was typical of American design. They start out with a clean design, like the original Buick Riviera or Oldsmobile Toronado, or even the Ford Taurus, and then they add unnecessary stuff to it and clutter it up. That’s what’s happened with Facebook.

This second box is probably not helping people understand what Timeline is about, and contributes to its clumsy look. Amazing how one thing can ruin it, but that’s how design sometimes works.

The location settings. When Facebook allowed friends to tag you at a location, it also gave us the option to approve each tag. Problem: this has never worked properly if using Mobile Facebook. Even when you change the settings to allow automatic tagging, they don’t tend to stick and the tags plain disappear regardless.

Timeline doesn’t work on the 1st of each month. If you’re in New Zealand, tough luck. Your Timeline will stay frozen on the last day of the previous month for most of the day, because the new month doesn’t start until the Americans say it starts. Prior to that, the new month wouldn’t start till the Californians said it starts. Presumably, this is why the New Zealand roll-out didn’t happen on December 1. The error has been there for three months now.

You can no longer use the lists properly. As of December 11, Facebook stopped me from selecting ‘Limited Profile’—a list it had since the mid-2000s—in any privacy setting, be it a status update or a photo album. This has still not been fixed. I traced the bug to Facebook’s new inability to add fan pages to your lists. It still allows you, but beware: adding a fan page to any list will render it inaccessible for your privacy settings.

Not many people seem to care about this one, though there are complaints about Facebook’s ‘Smart Lists’ on its fan page. The majority doesn’t use them, or was unaware they even existed till this year, calling Facebook copycats for taking a Google Plus feature. As mentioned above, it’s been there since the mid-2000s, so I’m unsure how Facebook in 2007 managed to copy Google in 2011.

I’ve got to scroll down a long way. At the time of writing, I have to scroll down six days before I can see my December summary. Before the roll-out, Facebook had this fixed at a number of posts. I preferred it before—my feeling is that this lengthy scrolling is contributing to the public’s concerns about Timeline’s concept and users’ privacy.

The Friendfeed and Tumblr plug-ins no longer work the same way. Facebook will gather up a series of posts before it puts a summary into a Timeline “box”. The Tumblr ones have totally disappeared. (Tumblr has been notified.)

Despite my misgivings about Facebook, especially about its privacy changes over the years and the imposed defaults that it got a lot of flak about, I have increased my usage at the expense of Tumblr and other services. I now make public posts for the subscribers—those I choose to have outside my friends’ list. When Facebook killed my Limited Profile last week, I spent some time doing a cull—I’ve cut my list

down by about 80 people, including those I was on a business club with but who never shared a single Facebook post with me in two or three years. (‘I must have killed more men than Cecil B. de Mille.’) In my mind, these have all been healthy moves.
Popping by others’ pages is a bit more enjoyable, seeing what graphics they have chosen for their headers, although I have spent very little time visiting. I have spent some time “filling in the gaps” over November with pre-2007 statuses and photographs for me, and adding locations to other statuses.

In most of these cases, only my real friends know them: that’s the beauty of having availed myself of the privacy settings since day one—and keeping an eye on them on a very regular basis.
Facebook never took a step back, so I’m afraid no matter what our complaints are, they’ll fall on deaf ears. Even after posting the solution to their newly introduced lists’ bug on to Facebook’s Lists’ Team page, they haven’t lifted a finger to fix the fault—but, then, since it doesn’t affect the boss, it might never get fixed.

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

10 Comments

  1. Cornelius Henderson Reply

    There are two major problems with the new timeline design that really throws a wrench into it, creating an unfortunate setback in the implementation of what could’ve been a good idea.
     
    One is the limited size of the profile picture. I like the cover photo feature but it is panoramic. Why not allow for a more full-sized profile picture (like we had) that is NOT cut off? Another major problem is when you go back to a previous dialog in the timeline, it only shows one side of the conversation – WHY? Facebook should try harder to make improvements without “fixing” the things that users do like – that are NOT broken!
     
    So often I feel that so many designers, developers, & engineers are out of touch when it comes to creative practicalities for the typical user. Facebook needs to seriously try to close that gap!

  2. Robertslewisadrienne682 Reply

    i do not want timeline so please leave mine as it is ! i have found that those of my friends who have timeline cannot play games &  does not show posts correctly & further more im not the slightest bit interested in what i did 3yrs ago & i doubt my friends are either !!! why fix something that isnt broken is beyond me. we should have a choice if we want to use this new crap or not !!! i for one will defantly leave facebook if you insist on & that is no threat its a promise, as ALLfriends feel the same. 

  3. Anonymous Reply

    I love Facebook because I can keep in touch with my family, friends old and new. I will still keep my Facebook even if it does go Timeline but I hope it doesn’t. Facebook is got to STOP changing every so often!!! Strange how these guys won’t listen to us. Facebook one of these days you are going to end up losing a lot users and eventually close down…we don’t want that to happen! So if you leave it the way it is and give us choices of what type of layouts we want, etc. without changing it for everyone permanently! Please listen to us for a change!!!

  4. Nonikarauria08 Reply

    i dont like da look of da new timeline so it better not change my page into timeline otherwise i wil pissed right off……. make facebook go back to normal……….

  5. Thefrogs09 Reply

    I can’t delete my old likes & Links from this Timeline. I think they should have left it alone! If it aint broken, don’t fix it.. I might be deactivating my FB for good now!

  6. Hdstead Reply

    Why can’t you leave the old Facebook on for those of us that don’t know much about computers and don’t really care to learn the new stuff?  Yes, timeline is up to date for all who use every kind of electronics, phones, ipods, and the million other things available.  But it is very confusing for those of us who just want to see our friends and families’ pictures, walls, and just to pop a quick note off to them once in awhile.  I have a hard time finding the few things that I use on Facebook with this new Timeline.  It frustrates me and I just end up turning it off.  I wish I was smart enough to get a new program going that is similar to the old facebook. I’m sure that at least one of the millions of intelligent people out there will become the newest billionaire when they get a company going that will relate to older people the way Facebook used to.  I’ll be getting rid of my Facebook and logging on to the newest company.

  7. Hdstead Reply

    Why can’t you leave the old Facebook on for those of us that don’t know much about computers and don’t really care to learn the new stuff?  Yes, timeline is up to date for all who use every kind of electronics, phones, ipods, and the million other things available.  But it is very confusing for those of us who just want to see our friends and families’ pictures, walls, and just to pop a quick note off to them once in awhile.  I have a hard time finding the few things that I use on Facebook with this new Timeline.  It frustrates me and I just end up turning it off.  I wish I was smart enough to get a new program going that is similar to the old facebook. I’m sure that at least one of the millions of intelligent people out there will become the newest billionaire when they get a company going that will relate to older people the way Facebook used to.  I’ll be getting rid of my Facebook and logging on to the newest company.

  8. Vyeddleman Reply

    Facebook can only be stopped if people start hitting them where it really hurts=advertising.
    Everytime you see an ad in the sponsorship go to that ad and click the “X”,  click “hide all ads —“, a new window appears, click “other”, type in the window space “Facebook forced TimeLine on me I am deleting your ad.”  Enough people complain the companies will either withdraw their ad from Facebook or Facebook will change it back to the old format. 

  9. Amish Parmar Reply

    I don’t want to go for timeline for my Profile page..,Home Page and for wall..,please remain my account as older page ,I don’t like and I don’t want to go for timeline.

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