Home Facebook Launching Friendship Pages; You’ll Love It, Except for When You Don’t

Facebook Launching Friendship Pages; You’ll Love It, Except for When You Don’t

Facebook announced this morning that it is launching a new feature, the Friendship Page. The Friendship Page will display public Wall posts and comments between two friends, photos in which both are tagged, Events they RSVP’d for together and other information. You’ll be able to see Friendship pages between yourself and a friend, or between any two other people in which you have permission to view both peoples’ profiles. In other words: you’ll now have a special page that displays all the things you’ve done with each particular friend.

This feature is a great example of the kinds of things that are possible when rich social graph and user activity data is cross referenced and analyzed for patterns. There are countless different ways this could be done – but Friendship Pages aim right at the heart of why people use Facebook, for the connections it facilitates between family and friends. As with other changes made to Facebook, though, it’s logical to ask: will this surface friends’ activities that were always publicly available but become controversial once they are centralized in one convenient place?

Friendship Pages will probably be rolled out throughout the day, not all users are able to see them yet. They will be linked-to under the main profile photo on a friend’s profile pages and in the newsfeed next to items announcing new connections and activities shared by friends you know both of.

The Man Behind the Feature

Friendship Pages is a very smart feature, something many of Facebook’s users will find pleasing in a viscerally social way. The feature was developed under the leadership of Facebook engineer Wayne Kao, who made the announcement on the Facebook blog today.

Kao is an interesting character (“devastating and spiffy” is how he describes himself on his private Twitter profile). According to LinkedIn, he was the lead engineer at people search engine Spock.com for three years through the Summer of 2009. Spock was an ambitious search engine for people that burned through millions of dollars and then sold itself to the legally-challenged paid-search firm Intelius a month before Kao left.

Prior to that, Kao describes himself as the main PowerPoint coder on PowerPoint 2007 at Microsoft, a co-developer of the World Atlas at Encarta.com and the man who brought the world Dawsons.Creek.com, a 3 year long high-profile fan site of teenage schlock TV show Dawson’s Creek.

Now Kao’s built the new Facebook Friendship pages. It sounds like the coolest thing on his resume.

The Downside of Friendship Pages?

Every time Facebook creates a new feature that surfaces already public information, but in a newly convenient way – some people don’t like it. When the very first Facebook Newsfeed took changes to already-visible profiles and centralized them in one highly visible place, people called it a privacy violation. (It’s now the foundation of the site.)

How many covert romantic relationships, secret workplace alliances and other close relationships that are visible but not emphasized will be made very explicit using this new feature?

Similarly, how many covert romantic relationships, secret workplace alliances and other close relationships that are visible but not emphasized will be made very explicit using this new feature?

Maybe that’s not a big concern, but the unconsidered degree of closeness between many mutual friends is about to be splashed up on its own Facebook page for millions of people.

If you aren’t doing anything wrong, of course, perhaps your social life has nothing to hide.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to have trips down memory lane made all the easier. If you’re someone who uses Facebook to keep up with old college friends, friends you knew before there was Facebook, imagine how much more fun this will be for today’s college kids. If they don’t delete their profiles and start over upon graduation, these Friendship pages could prove to be one of the most emotionally meaningful parts of the site. And a whole lot of fun.

What cross-sections of the data on Facebook will be exposed next?

Next: Read Mike Melanson’s argument – Facebook Friendship Pages are Just Plain Creepy

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