Facebook Sept. 14 launched a Subscribe button, a tool that aims to poke through the social network’s sharing walls by letting users pick what they see from people in the News Feed, even if they are not friends with them.
Facebook was built seven years ago with the construct that users cannot “friend” or connect with other users unless those users confirm their friend requests and agree to share information with them. While some have criticized this synchronous, two-way sharing as too limiting, other, more private people believe this is a good thing.
The Subscribe button offers users a compromise. In addition to letting user choose what they see from peoples’ News Feeds, users may “follow” users they don’t know. It’s fair to compare the tool–many have–to Twitter’s popular Follow button, which is the gateway to social interaction on that microblog.
Facebook has started prompting users to subscribe to the accounts of Facebook employees. Users will see the “people to subscribe to” prompt under the “upcoming events” section to the right of their News Feed. However, users will also find the Subscribe button on the right of the News Feed of all users whose profiles are public.
eWEEK, for example, clicked on the profile of Facebook engineer Lars Rasmussen, the former Google product manager renowned for building Google Maps and the failed Google Wave.
Once we clicked the Subscribe button to follow Rasmussen we were able to choose to follow all of his updates, most updates (which is the default setting) and just important updates.
Subscribe is even more granular; users can choose to see any combination of “status updates,” “life events,” “photos and videos” or “games.” Or, users may retain the default setting, which is to follow all of a user’s information sharing on the network.
Users may also click the option to unsubscribe to cease following a user’s account. Also, users may opt to broadcast their updates to people who aren’t their friends by opting in to receive a Subscribe button on their profile. Users who subscribe to those who add the button will see the user’s public posts.
To opt in, navigate to the subscriptions page and click to allow subscribers. Users may also choose to let others comment on their posts and receive notifications when someone follows them. By navigating to the Subscribers section on their profiles, users may edit their settings and even opt out of the Subscribe tool.
Subscribe joined the new Smart Lists feature, which auto-populates friends lists, of Facebook’s Friend Lists as two new information-sharing tools that sport a great degree of granularity.
These tools won’t lure more users to Facebook, which is the biggest online social network with 750 million-plus users, but it should keep them from going to Google+ for more fine-grained sharing tools.