September 23, 2011

Did you hear about the new Facebook changes?

Elisabeth Olsen

At their f8 Developers Conference in San Francisco last week, Facebook announced their recent major makeover and how this is just the beginning. These are the largest changes to Facebook since the early beginnings of the site. 

Their newly released features are:

  • A redo of their Friends Lists (like Google+ Circles) to make it easier to share with whom you want
  • A real-time news ticker (same functionality as RSS feeds)
  • The option to subscribe to anyone, whether that person is among your friends or not. (similar to Twitter)


In a few weeks, Facebook is launching “Timeline,” thereby giving the site an entirely new interface.

Timeline will let you customize your personal life story. It’s based on your account activity and will be organized in reverse chronological order. You decide what you want to include in your story from old postings, pictures, and such. And you can show your favorites in double size if you want. 

You will also have the ability to go back in time and fill in the blanks for important milestones that were not posted on Facebook (or that happened before Facebook even existed).

When you start out with Timeline, you'll have the option to immediately publish, or wait until you have edited your story. Just be aware that Facebook will set a deadline for all profiles that you can publish in Timeline.


Real-time media sharing

In the past, you would have clicked the “like” button to show everybody that you like a song. With the new interface on Facebook, you no longer need to do this. We are now talking about “passive sharing,” and by default, much of what you do with Facebook apps and even outside of Facebook with their integrated partners such as Netflix, Internet Games, and Yahoo News will automatically be shared. 
Example: You can listen to a song on Spotify and Facebook will know and post this in your Timeline.

Now one issue here is that your friends will know every single song that you listen to on Spotify and every movie you watch on Netflix, and you will know the same about them. 
In some ways, it resembles Beacon, a Facebook project in which sites like Amazon automatically posted to Facebook when and what a user purchased. This initiative failed in 2007 after protests from the public about the lack of privacy controls.


Possible logout risk

Facebook recommends that you log out of their site before browsing other sites if you are worried about them picking up your online activity. Hacker Nik Cubrilovic claims that this may not be enough. He says when logging out of Facebook, their cookies are not removed but merely altered.

“A number of cookies - including your account number - are still sent along to all requests to facebook.com,” Cubrilovic explains in his blog post. “Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit … The only solution to Facebook not knowing who you are is to delete all Facebook cookies."

Cubrilovic adds that this applies to any site with a Facebook “like” or “share” button or any other widget.


Through the use of Timeline, users will be able to participate in and build a stronger social Web experience by sharing their entire life story and exposing that information to an even wider audience. Real-time media sharing will let users get a look at each other's song and media choices in real time.

We're interested to know what you think of the new Facebook. Please leave comments at the bottom of this blog.


Thank you! 
Elisabeth Olsen - Supervisor Websense Labs  

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