Last night I went in search of an answer to a question that has vexed this industry for weeks: When will Facebook Timeline officially launch to the masses? The world’s most popular social network was holding a tiny gathering in downtown NYC, where I’d get to rub elbows with Timeline’s architects. I went, figuring one of them had to know the truth.
The small club atop a trendy hotel in lower Manhattan was crowded and dark. It offered amazing vistas of the city skyline and doted around the periphery of the room were stations where designers would talk about how they came up with some of the ideas in Timeline. Eventually, I found a bespectacled guy talking excitedly to another reporter. I began to listen in:
“One of the things we learned is that you can’t just walk in and rearrange the furniture.” It was Sam Lessin, product Manager for Facebook Timeline, explaining why Facebook was taking its time rolling out Timeline. The update radically rearranges users profile pages into, essentially, a timeline of their lives on Facebook and — if they fill in more details — even before they got on the social networking service.
Those who really want Timeline right now can, Lessin reminded me, get it. This is true; I jumped through a few simple developer hoops to get mine and told Lessin how I marveled at the things Timeline automatically surfaced about my time online. When your Facebook world is random and disorganized, you can forget about certain photos and comments—even the ones that generated more Likes and comments. Timeline reminds you by automatically finding the important ones and putting them in chronological order.
I inched closer to Lessin, who sounds a lot like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He was warming to his subject and explained the early access enterprising people like me have enjoyed is part of Facebook’s Timeline roll-out strategy. The social networking giant is giving those more skilled in technology and social network tools time to learn the new platform. In essence, it’s building an army of Timeline foot soldiers—not Facebook employees, but regular people who have gone out of their way to access and build their own Timelines. These early adopters are already embedded with their own often less technically adept family members and friends. The Timeline soldiers can help when friends and family are confronted by the sweeping changes found in Timeline. It’s also clear that, with events like this one, Facebook is trying to educate the media on the fundamentals and benefits of Timeline, which I’m sure Facebook execs figure could help buffet back a public outcry when the changes go live for everyone.