New Facebook changes – and these ones are big

Well, f8 came and went – and we’ll probably be shifting through this most recent round of Facebook changes for the next few weeks, if not longer. This year’s annual Facebook developer conference introduced what’s undoubtedly the biggest shift Facebook’s ever taken, and on a few different fronts. Here’s the Cliffs Notes version of the two biggest changes.

1. Revamped Timeline profile view. Since it’s what everyone really wants to know about immediately, here goes: my own (slightly anonymized) profile in the new layout. Pretty? Definitely. A major usability improvement? Not entirely sure yet.

Right now, the new Timeline view is only available to folks who have Facebook “developer” credentials, and even if you’re listed as a dev, you can only see the revamped profiles for folks who are also devs and have enabled their new layout. (Lest this make me sound impressive, a Facebook developer for this purpose is anyone who’s ever built a FB app, no matter how simple.) In his speech today, Zuckerberg said full rollout would happen over “a few weeks,” though who knows what that really means. (I did note that when invited to upgrade my profile, Facebook stated it’d be pushed live September 29 even if I hadn’t approved changes; not sure if that’s a dev-only rollout, or for everyone.)

2. A renewed Open Graph with better app integration. What’s Open Graph? It’s Facebook’s protocol for communicating with third-party sites and apps that want to use your profile info. If you’ve ever commented on a post on a third-party site using your FB login, or shared a link to your profile directly from a web page, you’ve used it. The next-generation Open Graph introduced today at f8 is much, much more flexible and capable – and for the average user, this means apps like Spotify, Foodspotting and Netflix will play considerably nicer with Facebook in general and your profile posts in particular. And this, in turn, means you’ll be exposed to much, much more of what your friends are listening to, watching, eating and doing. Watch Facebook’s video of how this works and how it’ll eventually appear in the News Feed and elsewhere. A core set of apps are already live, though your mileage may vary; for example, I’ve been trying to launch Spotify for the last hour or so with no success. (Network choke, anyone?)

And that brings us to the Ticker: What seemed at its launch two days ago to be an exercise in redundancy (why would we want that sitting right next to the News Feed?) suddenly makes a lot more sense. If my in-app activities (listening to a song, photographing my meal) live in that region of my friends’ Facebook screens, those tiny updates become less of an interruption and more of a quick-and-easy sharing option. In other words, for a while at least, the News Feed is where friends and brands tell us about stuff; the ticker is where we see what they’re doing and whether we want to do it, too.

There’s a lot more to today’s announcements, but until all the various bits and pieces are rolled out system-wide, we’re all peeking through a bunch of tiny windows. What bits of the new Facebook are you seeing already? What do you think of them? Share in the comments below.