This article was published on September 7, 2010

How Facebook’s Friend Feature Needs To Evolve

How Facebook’s Friend Feature Needs To Evolve

I keep getting the feeling that Facebook is trying to be too many things for too many people. On the one hand it is my personal network where I can connect with everybody I have ever known from friends and family to college mates and school friends. On the other hand it is this live stream of information from people I only barely know along with content from brands, businesses and personalities that I have decided to follow. I’m pretty sure everybody uses Facebook in one of those 2 ways and they are not 2 activities that I think sit particularly well together as far as I can see. On the one hand I want complete privacy for what I share with my personal network but on the other hand the “real time stream” of information and content only really works when everything is public. So I have started to wonder if it is time to split the stream?

What Would This Look Like?

To a large extent you can already play around with your privacy settings and target updates at specific people anyway in order to keep a handle on your privacy but not many people are aware of these features let along put them to use. I’m talking about 2 clear parts of the site. My public stream where I share stuff and see what others are up to and my private network which would be a place for 50-100 people at most (friends, family, colleagues etc), people I actually know and who could view all of my photos and private information like checkins on Facebook places and personal status updates.

This Would Fix Privacy Once And For All

Facebook is constantly bugged by questions over privacy and to a large extent this is something that they have brought upon themselves. You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that ideally Facebook would have it’s entire platform as public but that is against most user’s wishes. By locking down a specific group of friends and family where you knew what you shared would always be private (baby photos, getting drunk videos etc) Facebook could appease privacy concerns once and for all and go back to being the trusted network that got it to where it is today.

What Would The Public Stream Look Like?

Mostly rich content. The videos that I find and want to share. Information about the games that I play and the apps that I engage with on a daily basis. The brands I love and want to get info from. The celebrities that I follow. Information from my favorite sports team. The events that I am attending. Basically all the information that I interact with through Facebook but that I don’t need to have associated with my close network of personal friends.

Google Thinks It Should Be Like This

You may remember this little presentation from a couple of months ago that leaked out of Google about what they perceived to be Facebook’s weaknesses. They have clearly identified the problems that I mention here as something that they aim to focus on and fix ahead of the launch of Google Me. My one worry here is that complicated settings and advanced filters might work for power users but would your average Facebook user on the street know what these settings meant? The other thing to remember here is that Facebook is the social networking giant and Google is not so it’s probably best not to read too much in to this yet.

Can It Be Done Without Upsetting Advertisers?

This is only my opinion on Facebook and probably highly unlikely that Mark Zuckerberg is reading this but lets just say Facebook was to go down this route, could it actually happen? Well the biggest impediment to this would be the advertisers and the 2 billion a year that Facebook is already generating through that particular cash cow. Does Facebook really want to rock the apple cart when things are going so well? I doubt it. What I would say is from anecdotal evidence is that people are not using Facebook in the way they once did. Facebook grew off the back of being a great network for your personal friends and family and the way that they are heading is making it harder and harder for my network to stay private. I think this is one way that they could solve that problem. What do you think? Should Facebook split the stream or is it just fine as it is now?

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