IMPORTANT UPDATE: It appears that our man at Le Web, Boris, got completely the wrong end of the stick on this story. Somehow he managed to get ‘Facebook’ and ‘Ning’ mixed up. He then fed me incorrect information which then made it into this story. Our apologies to both Facebook and Ning for the mix-up.
To be clear, Facebook did NOT announce a move away from ‘friend-adding’, it was Ning. We will leave the below post up as a reminder that Boris owes me (and Facebook) a drink.
It looks like Facebook is moving further away from its roots and losing its emphasis on friend requests.
At Le Web this morning, Facebook’s Director of Network Development Ethan Beard noted that they want to move their focus off friending during a panel discussion chaired by Michael Arrington.
While the ability to add friends will always be available, Facebook will also start to look at people’s moves and interactions and show who friends ARE instead of who said they are friends.
Although there was no detail given as to how this will work, this move appears to be an extension of Facebook’s current friend recommendation system which looks at your behaviour and active social links and suggests other people you may know based on those links.
The recently introduced ‘Reconnect with…’ prompts, which suggest you might like to write on the wall of a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, also demonstrates Facebook’s move to think about friends in a much more behavioural way.
How might Facebook extend this idea of ‘your real friends’? Many of us befriend people on Facebook out of a feeling of ‘obligation’. Just because we knew them at school years ago we feel we have to be friends online despite having nothing in common.
Facebook could use smarter filtering to ensure you see less news from the people you care nothing about and more from the people you connect with regularly. With its division between a ‘Live Feed’ and a ‘News Feed’, they’re almost there already.
One thing we certainly wouldn’t like to see is Facebook introducing updates from people you might know into your news feed. Facebook could do this as long as that person has set their privacy settings to allow public access to their profile. Facebook might see this as a smart way of allowing you to see what people you hang out with are doing. Users, I’d wager, prefer the idea of conscious ‘opt-in’ friendships.
If Facebook thinks it knows my friend network better than I do it’s sorely mistaken.
[Image credit: Robert Scoble]