Facebook reinvents itself with Timeline

Social networking behemoth Facebook is repositioning itself in the face of growing competition from the likes of Twitter, announcing plans to replace everyone's profile pages with a new feature called 'Timeline.'

Announced at the company's f8 - pronounced eff-eight, rather than fate, we're reliably informed - conference late last night, Timeline is Facebook's latest attempt to grab every shred of information it possibly can from its millions of users in an effort to become a more tempting platform for advertisers.

Timeline, put simply, is a replacement for the current profile pages which folds in as much information from third-party services as possible. Beneath a wide image, a user's timeline is filled with posts, photos, and what Facebook terms 'life events' - things you've 'Liked,' 'Places' you've checked in to, and status updates - while scrolling down reveals Facebook's true hopes for Timeline: apps.

Joined on stage by executives from streaming music service Spotify, Facebook's Mark Zukerberg explained that the reinvented Facebook would enjoy far greater integration with third-party services. The company's sample Timeline includes information pulled in from fitness aid RunKeeper, film rental service Netflix, eBook specialist Kobo, Spotify, streaming video specialist Hulu, and the Nike+ GPS service.

The idea: your Timeline updates itself automatically, keeping anyone who would care to pay attention informed about the music you're listening to, the films you're watching, the books you're reading, and even the route you took on your last jog - and how long it took you, too.

For Facebook, the appeal is obvious: tracking its users every move in this way creates a wealth of data which will be invaluable to advertisers, giving the company a neat way of monetising its massive user base. For end-users, the benefit is somewhat harder to see: sharing that you've just rented Citizen Kane is one thing, but when Russ Meyer's Super Vixens pops up on your Timeline people may start asking questions.

For now, the Timeline feature is only available for selected users - although Mashable has a neat guide to turning the feature on manually, if you're particularly eager to see how it works. As the service rolls out and replaces the current profiles, however, you can expect to see privacy advocates up in arms over Facebook's latest creation.

If you're not quite ready to jump into enabling Timeline just yet, a demo can be found over on Facebook.