Facebook turns Like into Want, Cook, Read, and many others

Making good on its promise of "frictionless sharing," Facebook introduced 60 Timeline apps on Wednesday evening. The apps create real-time Facebook status updates on what you're listening to, reading, cooking ... the list goes on.

Stephen Lam/REUTERS
Ticketmaster unveils its Facebook "Timeline App" at the Facebook launch event at 25 Lusk restaurant in San Francisco, California January 18, 2012.

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first used the phrase "frictionless sharing" at the company's F8 conference last September, it raised some eyebrows among online-privacy advocates. Now that Timeline apps (also known as Open Graph apps) have become a reality, we're getting a better idea of what "frictionless" really means.

Bottom line: the new features make hiding your online identity and activity harder, but if that wasn't your primary concern to begin with, you'll probably be excited about the new ways in which you can broadcast your activities (both online and off) to your friends.

The new service launched on Wednesday evening with 60 different apps from companies such as RunKeeper, Hulu, Yahoo!, and Urbanspoon.

The apps allow these companies to hook into and share users' real-world interactions. Most of us are probably already used to seeing Spotify announce, in real time, what songs our friends are listening to. Now we'll also be able to see where people are running, what they're reading, what recipes they're cooking, and more.

Facebook bills the apps as a way to "express who you are -- a runner, foodie, traveler, music fan, movie buff and more." That may be so -- but there are a few things to keep in mind before you dive in.

One part of "frictionless sharing" is ubiquitous posts: for example, when you begin listening to a song on Spotify, that information will now appear in your friends' News Feed, Ticker, and on your Timeline profile page. Each app gets its own square of real estate on your Timeline (rather than splattering updates hither and yon), but you may still want to consider sorting your friends into lists, so you can better determine what gets shared with whom.

The permission process for apps has also been streamlined, so each one only needs a one-time initial approval to post updates for you. It's a thoughtful touch for those interested in sharing their lives more easily -- but also another cause for concern if you don't want your activities firehosed to all your friends.

Timeline apps are welcome news for social mavens, but they're also a big deal for both Facebook and the app developers. With real time data, companies will be better able to chart how people are using their products -- whether that's news stories, books, or music -- and weave themselves more tightly into users' everyday activities. New insight into consumer behavior also lets Facebook offer up more closely targeted ads than before. The social network knows not only what services you use, but how and when you use them. That can translate into big profits for the companies, and more advertising revenue for Facebook.

Readers, have you tried Timeline apps yet? What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below -- we're listening.

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