Facebook Timeline Apps are Ultimately About The Future of Mobile Devices

Last week, Facebook announced the release of more than 60 new Timeline apps which allow Facebook users to automatically share application actions on their timeline. You first became aware of Timeline apps when all your friends were telling you what songs they were listening to on Spotify.

How do Timeline apps work?

Once you authorize an app (which only needs to be done once) a live connection is established with your timeline. What this means is that as soon as you take an action with an app, like finishing a run with the RunKeeper app, the app automatically posts that action on your Timeline (as shown below).

 Facebook Timeline Apps are Ultimately About The Future of Mobile Devices

What is Frictionless Sharing?

Frictionless sharing is Facebook’s new model for more digestible (both psychologically and technically) social sharing. In other words, Facebook has redefined sharing.

There are two components to frictionless sharing:

  1. Gestures That Make Sense – Facebook is now allowing app developers to use gestures other than“like” for news feed stories. In the example above, it says that I just “completed” a run with Runkeeper (by the way, I can run further than .27 miles…).“Completed” works better because although I definitely completed the run, I may have not “liked” it.
  2. Permission Hurdles Removed – Timeline apps asks permission only once to access and share a user’s data. As shown below in the RunKeeper app, it’s easier for me to understand what the app needs to work. The app authorization also lists activities that will appear, and allows me to choose who can see your activities. Facebook Timeline Apps are Ultimately About The Future of Mobile Devices

It’s important to realize that frictionless sharing is about removing both technical AND psychological hurdles to sharing.

Are Timeline Apps intended for mobile?

Facebook is not a bunch of dummies. They know the future of the web exists in mobile devices. Frictionless sharing will encourage the use of Timeline apps via mobile devices in at least two ways.

  • Trust – With the old app permissions, it wasn’t really clear what your were authorizing. This created mistrust (a psychological hurdle). But the new app permissions explain exactly what personal data will be shared the first time you give that app permission. This is critical for mobile devices that previously had to ask permission repeatedly.
  • Thumbs – The new gestures like “read”, “cooked”, “pinned”“completed” and “donated” are thumb-friendly. Notice how the emphasis is NOT on writing comments, or entering data into fields (where you ran, who you ran with) in a browser. The emphasis is on very small actions – perfect for thumb-friendly mobile devices!

 Facebook Timeline Apps are Ultimately About The Future of Mobile Devices

Finally, almost all of the 60 Timeline apps can be found in the iTunes App Store. This reinforces my theory that their ultimate use is to capture actions from mobile users and not necessarily people using Facebook through a browser (please disagree in the comments!)

Learn more about Timeline Applications

Want to learn more about the implication of Timeline apps? Read “Facebook Timeline Apps: A New Way To Engage?” by Debra Askanase and “What Do Facebook’s New Timeline Apps Mean for Nonprofits?” by Beth Kanter.

Do you think Timeline apps are about mobile apps?

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