Jesse Eisenberg may have played Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a Vulcan-like cypher in The Social Network, but the real Zuck is anything but emotionally distant. When he's talking about Facebook, in fact, he's generally downright ebullient. And I've never seen him more exuberantly cheerful than he was during his keynote address at his company's f8 conference in San Francisco last week.
Zuckerberg had two major pieces of news to share. First, he announced that Facebook is replacing its Profile the page each user gets that displays his or her status updates, Likes, photos, FarmVille triumphs and other items with a radically revised version called Timeline, which is rolling out over the next few weeks.
Timeline is prettier than Profile: you can, for instance, add an oversize "cover" photo at the top along with your portrait. More important, it makes it a cinch to backtrack through a member's entire Facebook history, not just recent activities. It preserves every action of every member and attempts to emphasize the most memorable ones, such as marriages and job changes. You can even fill in your pre-Facebook existence by adding photos dating back to your birth.
Facebook's other big update, Open Graph, aims to change the social network even more than Timeline will. It lets third-party companies connect their apps and services to Facebook far more seamlessly than in the past and in particular allows them to seek onetime, blanket permission from a user to share stuff with Facebook. Once permission has been granted, the apps can push out the details of everything the user does, no further human intervention required.
Previously, you had to Like a song on the music service Spotify for your friends to know you'd listened to it. Now all the songs you listen to on Spotify get shown on Facebook automatically and your friends can listen to those tunes on Facebook if they choose.
A bevy of other companies, from TiVo to the Washington Post, have announced plans to release Open Graph apps that enable what Zuck called "frictionless" sharing. It's easy to see the day coming when just about anything that now sports Facebook's Like button instead offers Open Graph's more comprehensive form of integration.
Between them, Timeline and Open Graph have a shot at fundamentally altering the social network that Zuckerberg brought about. Old Facebook was about sharing a smattering of your current activities in a way that was usually disposable. New Facebook, once Timeline is fully available and there are more Open Graph apps, will try to come far closer to replicating your entire life and to keep track of it all for as long as both you and Facebook exist. If it all works, and is as popular as the service has been so far, it could change the way we relate to one another in ways that few websites have.
It wasn't the least bit startling to see Zuckerberg get giddy over this prospect at f8. He's the guy who came up with "Zuckerberg's law" the notion that the amount of stuff people share doubles every year and he clearly wants to keep it going for as long as possible. I would joke about him thinking that the site should track users' activities when they're asleep as well as conscious, except that it's no joke: he did say that. (Presumably he was talking about an app hooked up to a Net-savvy sleep monitor like the Lark.)