Facebook tests posts hidden from Timelines

Don't want evidence of a party pic or political comment? Try this new feature

Facebook is testing a new feature that appears to take a page from social networking competitor Snapchat, enabling users to be a bit more stealthy.

The social network is trying out a feature that lets users post to their News Feed but the posts won't show up in their Timeline. A user essentially could share an idea or comment that wouldn't have any history and wouldn't be saved on the user's Timeline.

The test appears to be underway in a small percentage of Facebook's global users.

"The Timeline on your profile is a great place to see a comprehensive history of your Facebook posts," a Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Computerworld. "We've heard feedback that sometimes, you may want to share a post with friends and family via News Feed and not have that post be displayed on your Timeline. Today, we're testing a feature that would make it even easier to control where your posts live by giving you the option to publish a post only to News Feed and not to your Timeline."

When a user in the test group makes a post, the user can click the click-down carrot and find a "Hide from Timeline" option that pops up.

"It's about deniability, I guess," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "It's really for people who don't want to be held accountable for their comments later. There would be no evidence of what they had said before."

That option could be a wise move for users who might not want potential employers to see photos they posted from a wild party or a political rally.

"Potential employers, universities and even insurance companies are asking for Facebook profiles to check you out," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "It would be harder for potential employers to see that latest tattoo, the Trump rally, or that booze cruise you took with your friends."

The "Hide from the Timeline" option could also make users apt to post more often if there was less lasting evidence, Moorhead said.

More posting means more time spent on Facebook, which could mean more advertising dollars for the social network.

Facebook also could be playing a bit of catch-up with competitors like Snapchat, a popular social messaging app that lets users send messages, photos and videos that automatically disappear in a brief amount of time from the recipient's phone.

If Facebook, which has been battling social upstarts like Snapchat for the elusive younger users, decides to adopt the "Hide from Timeline" feature widely, it's unlikely to give Facebook a competitive edge against its "hipper" challengers, Kerravala said.

"I don't see this helping Facebook. It seems very 'me too'," he added. "It's not taking a lead. People who want to be able to do this will probably use Snapchat."

Facebook tried a similar test last fall on a feature on its mobile app Messenger. In that test, Facebook allowed users to send messages that would automatically disappear, much as they do on Snapchat.

The feature hasn't been officially adopted.

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