This week has seen the launch of two new features from Facebook, which many have compared to unique features of Twitter and Google+. The two new features, "Friends Lists" and "Subscribe", have been likened to the "Circles" and "Follow" features of Google+ and Twitter respectively.
The "Friends Lists" feature is not entirely new. Facebook has allowed users to organize their friends into lists for some time now, however this recent revamp has moved the feature much closer to that of Google+'s "Circles". Placing your Facebook friends into lists allows you to both filter your news feed, and control who sees your status update, by those lists. This will allow users to talk to friends without alerting work colleagues of what they got up to on the weekend, or update family members of personal information without informing the rest of their contacts.
Part of this "Friends List" revamp includes the introduction of "Smart Lists" which automatically organises your Facebook friends into groups based on where you work, where you live, where you went to school, and your family members, taking out the hassle of doing everything manually like you have to on Google+. An improved suggestion engine for who you may want to add to your lists, and "close friends" and "acquaintances" lists makes this new feature all the more attractive. This new feature is will be particularly attractive to those who may have been tempted to join Google+ because of the "Circles" feature, and it will be interesting to see how this affects the growth of Google+, and Facebook stats on the adoption of the new "Lists".
The second feature, announced yesterday, is a "Subscribe" button, which will allow Facebook users to follow the status updates of people they are not friends with, a feature that is not to dissimilar to following someone on Twitter. "Subscribers" to a Facebook users will not be able to access any of the private information on that persons profile, and all Facebook users will have the option to "opt out" of the "Subscribe" button. The "Subscriptions" feature is mainly aimed at people, celebrities or political figures that want to spread their message to many people. Facebook does also state that brands will favour Pages over the "Subscribe" button, as Pages can be customised with applications, and offer "Insights", which Subscriptions do not (apart from the number of people subscribing to your posts.)
Both of these new features do seem very similar to pre-existing features on both Google+ and Twitter, however Facebook have argued that they have been working on these developments for sometime, and it is true that such ideas can, at a point, become obvious to many people, and so become new features to different networks at the same time. It is almost certain that Google+'s Circles was created because many people pointed out the inability to filter posts on Facebook, and so it is not surprising that Facebook have developed a similar product to overcome this problem, and is not necessarily a knee-jerk reaction to Google+.
Two questions we still have about these developments is what do they mean for brand pages? Can pages be added to "friends lists"? As far as we know the answer is no, but if people are filtering by their friends lists, where does this leave pages? Also, as people opt-in to subscribing to someones Facebook posts, are they assigned a higher Edge-rank? or will these posts need to be optimised as they are for brands?