PALO ALTO, Calif.-Facebook has launched three new applications it says will give its 500 million users greater control over the mountains of personal data they have posted over the years on the social networking site.
The world's largest social network, currently the subject of a best-selling movie, launched Oct. 6 the three new applications: Download Your Information, a new one-stop Applications Settings dashboard and a Facebook Groups application.
The idea is to give Facebook users "complete control" of all the posts, photos and videos they have posted on Facebook over the years and be able to use all that content for other purposes, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a packed house of media members and analysts at the company headquarters here.
"Facebook is launching a pre-emptive strike, if you will, against what Google is working on in its social networking product R&D," Gartner Research Vice President Ray Valdes told eWEEK.
It has been reported that Google will be launching a new set of Google Docs this fall that will entail new social networking applications.
Briefly, here is how the new Facebook applications work:
Download Your Information: This lets users ask Facebook to collect everything they've ever posted and then send it to them in a Zip file.
Application Settings dashboard: This dashboard shows users all applications they have subscribed to and granted access to their personal data, such as access to profile information or the ability to post to their Wall; what data an application has recently accessed and when; and options for removing an application's data access permissions or for removing the entire application.
Facebook Groups: This provides an easier way to stay up-to-date with small groups of friends and to share things with only them in a private space. The default setting is Closed, which means only members see what's going on in a group. From this space, users can quickly post photos, make plans and keep up with ongoing conversations.
You can also group chat with members who are online when you are. You can even use each group as an e-mail list to quickly share things when you're not on Facebook. The net effect is your whole experience is organized around spaces of the people you care most about.
"We've long heard that people would find Facebook more useful if it were easier to connect with smaller groups of their friends instead of always sharing with everyone they know," Zuckerberg said.
"For some, it's their immediate family and for others, it's their fantasy football league. But, the common concern is always some variant of, 'I'd share this thing, but I don't want to bother 250 people. Or my grandmother. Or my boss.'"
Valdes said he believes the new apps will be welcomed by users and that they fill gaps in the overall Facebook service.
"Yahoo has had some trouble with its Groups too, and Google will be addressing this soon. Looks like Facebook is staying ahead of the curve," Valdes said.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains the company's new Groups feature at the Oct. 6 press conference in Palo Alto, Calif.