Facebook just released several new changes to their website, and for anyone who is familiar with Google Plus, they should all feel very familiar. It’s clear that Facebook is still scrambling to make up for any features Google+ has that they still don’t have.
Smart Lists allow Facebook users to group their friends, similar to Google+ Circles. Some are pregenerated, such as a location-based list or the family list, and you can choose to import and merge any of your current lists or create new ones. From there, users can post their statuses so they are visible to some lists and not others. This gives Facebook the added privacy control people have been asking for. It also allows professional users to more easily separate their professional and personal lives, without needing to create a fanpage to do so.
The problem with the list feature is that the people who are most likely to use it are the Facebook power users. Unfortunately, these are also the people who have well over a hundred friends on Facebook. When you have several hundred friends, sorting all of them into different categories is a daunting task. It may not see the popularity it would have if it was released when Facebook was first widely available, like Google+ did with their circles.
The new subscriptions feature allows users to set up a subscription service for their posts. Subscribers can only see public statuses, but they don’t need to friend-request you to do so. This is similar to how Twitter and Google+ work; anyone can now follow your public stream. This works nicely with the Smart Lists feature. Users can put all of their actual friends in one list, and leave the casual acquaintances in the generic “friends” list. Whenever the user wants to keep a status away from the public view, they limit it to their actual friends list. For public posts, they can post normally, allowing everyone (including their subscribers) to see it. Again, this is perfect for users who want to separate their work/professional life from their personal life.
Another feature recently announced was Skype-Facebook chat for Mac users. This was originally left out when Facebook’s video chat option went live several weeks ago. Also, Facebook announced that they will be sending fewer notification emails, which doesn’t change anything for people who have already opted out of the majority of the notifications already.
It’s great that Facebook is rolling out all of these new features, and they do improve the experience a bit, but it’d be more impressive if they were coming up with ideas that a competitor wasn’t already doing. If they want to beat out Google+, they’ll have to do it by getting original, not by turning out recycled ideas.