Inside Facebook, the social network is planning to roll out three new features in the first quarter of 2008. The first, privacy filters for friend lists, is a welcome addition that we said needed to be added to the lists. The second, more localized versions of Facebook, is an obvious step to take as the site expands around the world. The third, though, is a bit more confusing: the ability to blast messages to large groups.According to a report by Justin Smith at
Update 1: Friend Lists Privacy Controls
When Facebook launched friend lists last month, we said that they were a good addition, but incomplete without privacy controls. "The feature allows users to create groups of friends and has been seen as a necessary step for Facebook to be able to compete with professional networks like LinkedIn, but Facebook's implementation seems incomplete," we wrote. Facebook must "tie in privacy controls to friend lists if they want to seriously appeal to the business networking crowd."
By adding those controls, Facebook can start to become a serious option for the business networking crowd. Privacy controls, assuming they are finely grained enough (i.e., you can choose specifically which apps to show to specific users, not just "this user can't see my apps"), will let users basically set up multiple profiles -- for example, one for mom and dad (with just basic info and a few tame photos), one for friends (with all the bells and whistles), and one for work (with just contact information, school and work data, and some relevant apps). Even better, I would love to see the ability to keep friend's actions on your profile separate from each other based on groups. That is, for example, people in group A can only see wall posts of people in group A, people from group B can only see photos posted by people in group B, etcs.
Of the three announcements, this one might be the most important for Facebook in the long term.
Update 2: Facebook in New Languages
Localization is a must for any site that wants to expand to foreign territories. Facebook in new languages is not really a surprise, though Smith is also reporting that Facebook plans to launch a "Translations" app that will encourage users of Facebook to volunteer to translate various Facebook pages for foreign users. That's an interesting, crowdsourced approach to translating thousands of pages of content and it will be interesting to see how it works.
Update 3: Blast Messages to Large Groups
This is the update that is more perplexing to me. As Smith writes, "Facebook marketers have been banging their head on the wall for a long time because of Facebooks cap on the size of groups youre allowed to blast messages to. This has caused many to migrate their group members to Pages, or even other websites, in order to enjoy more robust group communication tools."
Supposedly, Facebook is planning to remove that cap on group communication, such that administators of groups over 1,000 members will be able to mass message. What confuses me, is why Facebook continues to have both Groups and Pages. They are, more or less, the same tool. The difference, as far as I can tell, is that Pages can use outside applications and have slightly better management tools. Beyond that, there isn't much to separate the two. So why have both?
And if you are going to have both, at least provide a conversion tool so people can migrate from one to the other! A lot of early Facebook users have built up massive followings using the Groups app, and would love to switch to using Pages, but it is hard to get users to switch. We're facing a similar dilemma with our ReadWriteWeb group. We feel that Pages might give us more flexibility (albeit, not much more), but leaving our 900+ members behind doesn't seem like a good idea.
Pages vs. Groups is an example of a redundancy on Facebook that they should fix. Kill Groups or merge the two features together or do something with one that differentiates it from the other.