Timeline, Facebook's most expansive change yet to its signature profile pages, was made available to the social network's 800 million users worldwide Thursday.
The very visual new feature, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at the Palo Alto company's f8 Developers Conference in September, allows Facebook members to store and share videos, photos and posts from the most important moments of their lives, organized year by year.
"We wanted to make Timeline a place you were proud to call your home. Timeline is a completely new aesthetic for Facebook," Zuckerberg said.
The concept has been in the works since Zuckerberg was still at Harvard in 2004, when he would discuss the concept with classmate Sam Lessin.
"Mark and I had kind of an ongoing discussion for years about how do you express someone's story," Lessin said in an interview last month. "We would talk about storytelling and profiles and a lot of these concepts about what it means to express yourself in a digital future, where you have an unlimited amount of data storage."
Lessin, who was recently promoted to a high-ranking executive position within the company, worked for a year with graphic designer Nicholas Felton and a team of engineers to create the service, and it has been slowly rolling out to some users for the past two months.
Any Facebook member can switch their profile to Timeline by visiting www.facebook.com/about/timeline, Facebook engineering manager Paul McDonald said in a blog post Thursday. The feature is also available for Facebook's app on Android mobile devices and for those who access the mobile version of the site, m.facebook.com, Facebook product manager Mick Johnson announced in a separate blog post.
Users who do not actively switch to Timeline will be prompted to do so at the top of their profile page at a later date.
After accepting the switch to Timeline, users can view and edit their Facebook material to ensure that only the information they want to appear will show up on the new profile page. Facebook members can use up to seven days to review their past posts, photos, videos and more before their Timeline appears to other users.
The seven-day review period and in-depth editing features are part of Facebook's effort to calm any concern users may have about their privacy. Members who move to Timeline will also be able to view their new profile as it will appear to friends and the public by selecting "View as" from the main drop-down menu, marked with a gear.
In September, Zuckerberg said the draw of users sharing their lives would supersede any privacy concerns with Timeline.
"I think everyone wants to collect this stuff," Zuckerberg said, "and have the story of your life."
Analysts say Timeline will help Facebook bring in more revenue and fight off competitors like Google+.
Timeline can also help brands like Heineken or American Express tell their story, providing yet another marketing tool for the company, TBG Digital CEO Simon Mansell said, and it will help Facebook take advantage of the years of photos and posts users have already put on the world's most popular social network.
"This is a way for Facebook to leverage their advantage," Mansell said.
Staff writer Mike Swift contributed to this report. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876.