Facebook's 2011 f8 event: what impressed me the most

Facebook's 2011 f8 developer conference contained a lot of firsts for me as a journalist. Only one of them blew my mind.

Facebook's 2011 f8 developer conference was something else. There were a lot of things that I loved, a few I did not, and just one that really impressed me.

It's not that f8 was the biggest conference I've ever been to, or that it had the most amusing keynote I've seen yet (Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg even managed to be funny), or that it made me realize just how deep the company's pockets really are. It wasn't even that alcohol was served as if we were in Europe (the event was held in San Francisco) or that they actually had decent music playing throughout. It's the fact that the company managed to keep the announcement a surprise.

As a technology journalist, I enjoy writing about speculation and rumors almost as much as I like writing about product announcements (arguably unfortunate, but true). On the flipside, I can't help but feel a little disappointed when a major announcement is leaked.

It's important to note that a lot of today's news was indeed rumored in some form or another (see links below). We knew there was going to be a redesigned profile, multiple media and news partnerships, an expansion of the Like button, and that third-party developers would be able to somehow tap into all of this.

The major announcement (around the Facebook Timeline and the Open Graph) did not leak though. We heard bits and pieces, but nobody really knew how the feature would work and how developers would be able to leverage it with their new social apps. There wasn't even a blurry-screenshot-taken-with-a-phone-camera that mysteriously appeared before the event. There were, of course, a lot of rumors and expectations that were not fulfilled at the event.

When Zuckerberg first uttered the word "Timeline" on stage during his keynote, every journalist had to go into their CMS and type it in. When Zuckerberg first started to explain how the newly expanded Open Graph would work, everyone had to pay attention, because they really were hearing it for the first time.

Facebook employees said multiple times that they have been working on this update for over a year. In fact, an early prototype did go live on the website for an hour in December 2010.

Still, that was an accident (as opposed a Facebook employee or Facebook partner leaking the information). Furthermore, even with this leak, nobody predicted that Facebook Memories would definitely be the basis for what would be unveiled this week.

Facebook has over 2,000 employees (as of the year 2010). If we include families, friends, acquaintances, partners, and other connections, I would not be surprised if 5,000 people knew about what would be announced. Keeping that many people quiet is remarkable, and that's exactly why it's what impressed me the most at this year's f8.

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