Your Facebook profile is about to become a lot more... animated. In an official announcement, Facebook has outlined a raft of changes coming to profile layouts, including temporary profile images, a one-line bio and the ability to use animated GIFs as your profile image.
The updates will significantly change how people view and experience Facebook profiles, particularly on mobile devices - here's how each element works.
The change that stands out most is obviously the capacity to use of animated GIFs as your profile image.
Pretty amazing, and good looking, right? The introduction of animated profile pictures is a big change, providing people with a whole new way to express themselves via their Facebook profile. From the announcement:
"The world has changed since we first introduced profiles in 2004. On News Feed and profiles, we're seeing people create and view more videos than ever before. Today we're starting to test the next step in an obvious evolution of profiles: profile videos. Soon, you'll be able to film a short, looping video clip that will play for anyone who visits your profile. Profile videos will let show a part of yourself you couldn't before, and add a new dimension to your profile."
Given the proliferation of video on Facebook - with up to four billion videos viewed on the platform every day - moving images is obviously a big draw for user attention. As technology evolves and mobile connectivity advances, video has become a more prolific part of our web experiences - this announcement effectively keeps in trend, while giving Facebook users more opportunity to have fun and create more engaging profile content, which is a great move by Facebook.
The second update will give users the ability to use a temporary image as their profile photo, along with some photo editing tools to better highlight what your photo is about.
"When more than 26 million people used our Celebrate Pride filter, it was more apparent than ever that people use their profile picture to show who they are- even if it's just for a moment in time. Profile pictures are not just static portraits. They represent what's going in your life right now and what's important to you, and we want to give people the tools to better express themselves in this way."
As highlighted in the video (above), the new option will enable you to set a time limit for how long your new profile image is shown for - the options include '1 hour', '1 day' '1 week' or 'Custom'.
This is another creative way for people to generate more engagement with, and interest in, their Facebook profiles. Interestingly, when Facebook introduced the rainbow 'Celebrate Pride' filter back in June, many speculated that Zuckerberg and Co were tracking its use to improve their data sources and get more information on the causes users support - which they no doubt were, to some degree. Could this tool also be used to track support for causes and gather more data? It could, definitely, though the main function seems to be more focused on generating engagement than it does on gathering up more info on your personal leanings.
In what may be the most interesting element, at least from a data and insight perspective, Facebook is giving users the opportunity to showcase more information about themselves in the main section of their profile.
As you can see, there's a new bio field below the main image and tabs, and, below that, there's also a new featured photos section.
The wording in the announcement on this section is particularly interesting:
"You've always been able to control who can see the information you showcase on your profile, and now we're making it easier for you to see what others can view by introducing a new customizable space at the top of your profile. You can curate this space- and convey what you want people to know about you- by changing the visibility of the fields that show up here."
While this space is visible to anyone who visits your profile, you have full control of what information appears here."
There's obviously a big focus on user control, which usually, in Facebook-land, means that they can use this type of information for targeting - which is precisely what they'll likely do. As noted by Josh Constine on TechCrunch:
"The more that people want to visit profiles, the more they'll want to update their own. With biographical information now easier to see at the top of the profile, users are incentivized to keep the info like their job title current. That in turn lets Facebook accurately target these users with ads meant for "software engineers" or people that "live in San Francisco".
Giving people the capacity to update and share more specific information about who they are will no doubt provide a new means of expression and connection with visitors to their Facebook profiles, but it's also another potential data source for Facebook to utilize - and worth noting, the last major update to Facebook profiles back in 2010 yielded them scores of new data on users.
The introduction of a bio field is also in-line with another recent test from Facebook - the addition of Linkedin-style tags to profiles.
No word on whether that will also see a wider roll-out as yet.
Facebook also announced some additional design changes to mobile profile layouts to better present your information 'in a more visually engaging way'.
"We're moving your profile picture and video to literally put you front-and-center on your profile. Profile pictures are now centered, and we've made them bigger to give you more real estate to show off what you can do with our new creative tools."
Facebook has also given photos more focus by moving them to the top of mobile profiles, along with friends' lists, helping visitors locate mutual connections.
Facebook is testing out the new features with 'a small number of iPhone users in the UK and California' with a view to a wider roll-out soon. So get your animated profile pics ready, because change is coming.