Facebook launches Subscribe button

2011-09-15 08:24

San Francisco - Facebook is letting members follow strangers Twitter-style in the latest of a barrage of data maelstrom-taming moves since rival social network Google+ launched in June.

"Google+ was a major wake-up call for Facebook," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.

"They were awakened to the fact that they could be another MySpace; so they suddenly got very aggressive on moving the ball forward so they couldn't get caught," he added.

MySpace was the dominant online social network until it was eclipsed by Facebook.

Google+ combined aspects of Facebook and micro-blogging sensation Twitter, and promised users that sharing aspects of their lives at the social network would reflect levels of confidentiality granted in real life.


A criticism of Facebook has been that updates are shared with all of one's friends unless a user has gone through a relatively complicated process to create separate Facebook Groups.

In recent weeks, Facebook has focused intently on ways for members to better control what information gets shared with whom.

"Until now, it hasn't been easy to choose exactly what you see in your News Feed," Facebook developer Zach Rait said Wednesday in a blog post introducing Subscribe buttons on profile pages.

"You also couldn't hear directly from people you're interested in but don't know personally - like journalists, artists and political figures," he said. "With the Subscribe button, we're making it easier to do both."

Subscribe buttons let people tailor what they see in news feeds; hear from people who aren't friends at the network, and share insights with strangers.

"If you'd like to share your public updates with more than just friends, you can get a Subscribe button on your profile," Rait said.

Facebook also began letting members be more selective about what kinds of updates from friends make it into their personal news feeds at the website.


People can select an "all updates" setting or opt to be shown "most updates" or "important updates only", such as marriages or job changes.

"For example, you could see just photos from one friend, no stories about games from another, and nothing at all from someone else," Rait said.

Facebook on Tuesday introduced "smart lists" that automatically sort friends into categories and prioritise news from those dearest to members of the world's largest online social network.

"This is really something we have been working on for four years," Facebook director of product management Blake Ross said of smart lists.

"We think this is the way people will make lists going forward," he continued.

Facebook began in 2007 letting members individually sort friends into lists for targeted sharing of comments, photos and other digitised snippets of life.

The smart lists feature spares Facebook users the tedium of creating lists by automatically putting friends into groups, with the first four categories being work, school, family and city.

High-priority people

Smart lists are created and updated based on information people consent to share with friends on Facebook, according to Ross.

"Smart lists take all the pain out of organising friends on Facebook," Ross said.

Facebook will also let each member create a list of high-priority people who are "closer to them than anyone else in the world" or "acquaintances" whose posts they don't want to see very often.

"Facebook is used by more than 750 million people worldwide, and just like in the real world you are friends with a diverse group of people," Blake said.

"We heard from users that it is hard to talk to all these people at one time, and maybe harder to hear from them at one time," he added.

Google+ stressed the ability it gives users to separate online friends and family into different "Circles", or networks, and to share information only with members of a particular circle.

Google has a billion users worldwide that could be drawn into the internet giant's social network.

"I think you are going to see Facebook be much more aggressive," Enderle said.

"They are focused on maintaining a competitive edge right now."

  • indiran.naidoo - 2011-09-15 08:47

    They making it too complicated and will loose user base!

      Pierre le Roux - 2011-09-15 09:13

      I think they are actually trying to make it less complicated in their attempt to compete with Google+. Studies have shown that Facebook is starting to loose its appeal as many people are moving on to other platforms and social media.

  • ian.d.samson - 2011-09-15 08:54

    From what I have seen of Google Plus, it's Google MINUS while Facebook stays eons of light years ahead! It is certainly NOT complicated and Facebook will never lose user base over these insignificant changes.

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-15 09:50

      I agree and at least you can spell lose, unlike most posters on these forums who obviously think things aren't too tight!

      Harvey - 2011-09-15 13:40

      Ian, You might like FB but youngsters are bored with it. When your mom is on facebook and reading your posts, then its time to move to a new forum. And by the way, Google+ rocks. Light years ahead of Facebook.

  • Jenny - 2011-09-15 09:03

    Wish Facebook would add a DISLIKE button too :-)

      psk2004 - 2011-09-15 09:51

      you can down load an application, i have a dislike button on mine

      CapeTownJunk - 2011-09-15 10:33

      @psk2004: You shouldn't trust third-party applications on Facebook. The only dislike button you ought to trust is one that's an official part of Facebook. And I agree, it would be a good idea. Although it might also lead to a pandemic of defriendings!

  • IcemanGP - 2011-09-15 09:04

    Still want a bloody "DISLIKE" button.

  • koos.kroep - 2011-09-15 09:46

    Listen, who cares as long as it's free.

  • Delene - 2011-09-15 11:09

    It would also be more sensible to have a comment as 'connected' as apposed to Joe Soap is now 'Friends' with (his Mother???)

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-15 11:15

      you think "Joe Soap is now connected to his mother" sounds any better than "Joe Soap is now friends with his mother"????

      Pierre le Roux - 2011-09-15 13:57

      Neither sounds quite right!

      Travis Vermaak - 2011-09-15 15:59

      Haha...sounds rough!

  • capetownphotographer - 2011-09-15 11:56

    I'm going back to sending smoke signals...

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