Today, Facebook revealed a slew of new features and controls for your profile—including the ability to use a looping video as your photo. Which is… almost like a GIF!The evolution of the Facebook profile has been slow and steady: While the News Feed and your Timeline (née, the Wall) have received some dramatic (and hated!) updates, the basic elements of the personal profile itself have remained. You’ve always had a photo that sits on the left-hand side, there’s always been a space to fill out basic information about yourself, and since nearly the beginning, finding more photos of you has been really easy to find.
All of this looks nearly identical whether you’re on desktop or mobile—which is a little strange, really. There’s a lot of information on a Facebook profile, and when it’s condensed on a smaller screen, pieces of you can get lost (or just require too much scrolling, thus going unnoticed). But Facebook knows how utterly important mobile is (according to one study, people spend 14 hours in the Facebook app a month), and is updating profiles for mobile accordingly.
Here’s how a Facebook mobile profile looks like now:
And here’s what it’s going to look like:
The larger photos will now be centered, as is a new, sort-of summarized bio section. You’ll be happy to know this can include emoji—which is great, because all you need to know about me is . You just have to keep it to 101 characters. “We’ve seen a lot of people ‘hack’ their profiles to show bits of their personality like nicknames, and we wanted to give people a new, freeform space at the top of the profile to do that,” a Facebook spokesperson says. Facebook is including new controls, as well, so you can decide which personal information fields show up here.
Below the profile photo and general info will be a block of five featured photos. The new featured photos space is an option—so don’t worry, Facebook won’t populate this field for you if you don’t want it there. That said, the team thinks it’s going to be a hit: “Features Photos is a section we’re very excited about because we think there are a lot of creative ways for people to use it,” says a spokesperson. “We think people can use this space to visually highlight what’s important to them.”
“As part Mutual friends will be bumped up, too; Facebook says this is something users want to see when they’re stalking looking at a new friend’s profile (Facebook is right).
The most significant update for profiles is easily that your photo no longer has to be a photo at all—now, you can have a profile video. “You’ll be able to film a short, looping video clip that will play for anyone who visits your profile,” Facebook writes in a blog post announcing the changes. This is not a drill—I repeat, this is not a drill: You can soon have an animated profile photo on Facebook. Facebook says you still can’t upload a .gif, but the effect remains extremely similar. This also might be the single most-used home for iPhone Live Photos.
Facebook’s also introducing temporary filters for profile photos. “When more than 26 million people used our Celebrate Pride filter, it was more apparent than ever that people use their profile pictures to show who they are—even if it’s just for a moment in time,” Facebook writes. The idea is to give you a temporary profile picture that you can set a time limit on. When you decide the moment is up, your photo will immediately roll back to whatever you had before. This is probably meant to address the discomfort of having to ask yourself “am I done visually supporting [insert cause here] with my profile photo?” and taking action to change it. Now, Facebook will do the dirty work for you.
Clearly, all of this amounts to a huge mobile push for Facebook: We have a tendency to complacently consume via smartphone, but these tools are about creating. But that doesn’t mean the updates totally forsake the web. All of the changes you make to your profile using these new options is viewable via desktop, but designed with mobile in mind. “So for example, you’ll be able to view other peoples’ profile videos on web, but we’re initially testing the profile video upload flow on iOS,” the Facebook rep explains.
Only a “small number” of iPhone users in the U.K. and California will have access to the new features while Facebook tests them out, but they’ll roll out more widely soon. Which gives you plenty of time to work on that animated profile photo.