Facebook has finally decided to start rolling out its Timeline; but don't get too excited, it's only turning the feature on for 0.25 percent of its users. Just two days after AllThingsD's Liz Gannes ranted about Facebook's delayed launch, the company answered her impatience, announcing that it would take the product out of beta mode. But, not exactly to Gannes. Facebook has limited the release to the tiny island nation of New Zealand and its 2 million Facebook users.
For the rest of the world, Facebook has been vague about when exactly it would make the product available en masse. In its announcement post, Facebook's Samuel W. Lessin indicated a "near future" wide release. But in an interview with NZ Herald, a New Zealand news site, Facebook told Matt Grenop "We're definitely taking our time with this one." Not necessarily a good sign for people like Gannes who have awaited the product for 10 weeks.
But just because those lucky New Zealanders get to play with the real deal, that doesn't mean the rest of you have to wait around. Over a million people already have beta timelines and tens of thousands sign up each day, noted Gannes. Technically the unofficial version is only for developers. But normal people can get it by tricking Facebook. TechCrunch has a thorough explainer on how to do that. But basically it involves putting one's profile in developer mode and creating a fake app on Facebook's Open Graph -- another tool Facebook has yet to fully implement.
Facebook has defended its reasoning for only launching the product on an island with a population of 4 million, saying that it can act as a little English speaking test-run for the Timeline. "As a global company, we need to gain perspective and insights from outside the US. New Zealand is a good place to start because it’s English speaking, so we can read the feedback and make improvements quickly," a Facebook spokesperson told GigaOm. Gannes had suggested that Facebook had delayed the launch partly because the product just wasn't up to speed. "From the Facebook camp, we hear of efforts to rewrite Timeline to make it faster, to sync up mobile versions, and to fully ensure the product is ready," she wrote. Presumably the New Zealand test run will address those issues. Another possibility for the delay and the tiny test group could be external factors. Upon launch, Facebook faced a lawsuit from a company called Timelines for trademark issues. A judge denied the temporary restraining order against Facebook, but said it would reconsider if Facebook opened Timeline to a larger audience. The two million gives Facebook room to test the product, without baiting the judge.