Facebook announced an expected update to its service today that is scheduled to be released on Thursday. It’s a simple one, which brings to the forefront features that Facebook has had all along and Google+ has been getting all the attention for lately: The ability to target posts and elements of a person’s Facebook profile to specific audience, and see what it looks like to that audience as a whole.
I wrote about the release of Facebook Friend Lists back in 2008 when Jason Alba and myself launched my first book, I’m on Facebook–Now What??? Soon after, Facebook made it possible to finely target posts to just those audiences – I use this feature often, although up until this Thursday, it has been buried under an interface that didn’t seem to put privacy and the realization of privacy at the forefront of the experience. For a network focused and invested in privacy and private social graphs, I always thought this was quite odd.
On Thursday, along with each post to your friends, you’ll be encouraged to select an audience for that post. That audience can be to public (there is no 100% “public” option on Facebook that search engines can see, with the exception of Facebook Pages), friends, and “customize”. It’s much more a part of the experience now, and with each post you share it will be abundantly clear who that post is being shared with. It is basically just an interface change from the functionality they had before.
Facebook has always had the ability to view your profile as other people (Google+ likely learned this from Facebook). It was just buried deep in your privacy settings (Account->Privacy Settings->Connecting on Facebook/View Settings->Preview my Profile). However, with the new change this button will be right on your profile page, just like the Google+ interface, in a nice, easy to find location. In addition, you’ll be able to click next to individual elements on your profile, much like Google+, and change your privacy settings right on your profile.
The only really new thing Facebook is rolling out with this launch is the ability to preview photos and posts you are tagged in before they appear to your friends or in the posts and photos themselves. This in and of itself is a very big change. However, the majority of changes, while very welcome changes in my opinion, are just user interface updates.
Google reacted to Facebook’s poor (yet still robust) privacy interface by launching Google+. Now Facebook has responded back by improving that interface, as I’m sure many expected. It seems as though Facebook is responding to Google, not with many new features, but a “Hey look, we have this too – it’s right here” response. Indeed, those features are there, and it will be great that everyone can finally find them and enjoy what has been my favorite feature of Facebook for the last 3 years.
To see what it looks like, you can view the screenshots below. Also, see this article on AllFacebook.com for a great overview of the new features. Here are all the new features being released on Thursday: