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Example Facebook profile cover photo 2013-07-17

Example Facebook profile cover photo 2013-07-17

Example Twitter profile cover photo 2013-07-17

Example cover photo usage on Twitter

cover photo is a large photo which users can upload or select to additionally represent themselves on their profile pages. It is distinct from their avatar or profile photo in that it is used fewer places across the site. 

Commonly, it is a wide-format image (whereas avatars are often square or nearly square in proportion). It often appears at the top of the profile; the user’s name and/or username, along with their avatar, may be drawn over the cover photo.

On touch interfaces, the cover photo is often vertically cropped until the user pulls the content down. 

Some implementations do a similar thing on classical computers, as well; e.g., Facebook makes users scroll up to view full cover photos (except on your own account, where it is all visible initially. Those sneaky designers know we are vain.)

HistoryEdit

This largely needs sourced, but: I understand cover photos were adopted in this order:

  1. by Path (iOS-focused social network) in 2011 or earlier
  2. by Facebook in late 2011. Source: TechCrunch
  3. by Google in Google+ in April 2012. Source: Mashable
  4. by Twitter in September 2012. Source: Hubspot.com Blog

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