Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced a set of major updates at his annual F8 keynote Thursday. The world largest social network has used F8 in past years to debut significant features, such as the Like button, its idea of a "social graph," and Facebook Connect, which allows other sites to plug directly into members' accounts. This year, Facebook turned all three of those big innovations on their heads.
Facebook's Like button, which has become ubiquitous across the Web (there's even a little girl named after the feature), will expand in scope. Users can now share items online without getting stuck in the linguistic awkwardness of saying that they "like" articles about tragedies or movies that turned out to be rotten.
So what's the big innovation? Verbs! Facebook will soon roll out the ability to proclaim that you watched a movie, heard a song, cooked a meal, biked a trail, visited a town, and blanked a blank. Of course, you can still like anything you want.
Zuckerberg explained that this new flexibility allows people to share more without passing any judgement – and without giving it the importance of a full post.
All of these "lightweight activities" will go into Facebook's new Ticker, an extra feed tucked into the top-right corner of the website. It will focus on quick hits – minor posts and messages – freeing up the main panel to focus on more interesting news. However, if several friends watched or listened to the same thing, Facebook's computers will recognize the trend and clump them into an item on everyone's newsfeeds.
The Ticker is just one new way to digitally check in on friends. F8 also introduced the Timeline, an extensive but clean compilation of a member's life. The feature grabs everything that a user has published to Facebook and lays it out in a massive, vertical play-by-play. Minor events (as defined by a computer) get condensed and packed away, while major moments, such as weddings or graduations, receive more prominent placements. If the computer does a lousy job of choosing what to hide and what to highlight, users can manually curate their own feeds. People can also fill out their Timelines, posting photos and important dates from their lives before Facebook.
By expanding Like into countless verbs, Facebook allowed for more interactions with apps. For example, Zuckerberg said that the social network has teamed up with Netflix and Spotify. Movies, TV shows, and songs will now automatically pop up in friend's Tickers (if you agree to share that information). For readers now slipping into traumatic flashbacks of the early Farmville days, remember that this is why Facebook instituted the new Ticker. All these low-level posts shouldn't clutter the main feed anymore.
The biggest theme of this F8 keynote was "more" – more interactions with outside companies, more information about your life, and (really) more reasons to stay on Facebook. Even before these updates, web watchers at Nielsen found that Americans spent 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook in May, which is more than they spent on Yahoo, Google, AOL, and Microsoft sites combined.
In fact, Ben Elowitz, CEO of the digital media start-up Wetpaint, found that as the US spends more time on Facebook, it collectively spends less time on the rest of the Web. According to his calculations, since March of last year, Facebook hours jumped 69 percent. Meanwhile, non-Facebook hours fell 9 percent.
With today's updates, those numbers could skew even further.
For more on how technology intersects daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.