Update: I should note the backlash on these new features (funnily enough, some of it came to me through my new Facebook news feed). Many Facebook users are displeased, particularly since the news feeds’ default privacy options make everything viewable. More than 100,000 users joined a group called “Students Against Facebook News Feed” demanding “Until this feature is removed or changed to protect my privacy, I WILL NOT update my profile.” Mark Zuckerberg has just posted, “Calm down. Breathe. We hear you.”
Facebook holds itself above other social networks because of its focus on real-world relationships. The company sees itself as a utility, providing up-to-date information about your friends and what they’re doing.
Sometimes Mark Zuckerberg and his crew of big-picture thinkers try too hard to separate themselves, calling a blogging tool “notes” or adding a company blog without a feed. But other times they seem to really get it — for instance, today’s new features: news feeds that show, chronologically, your friends’ most recent activities across the site, and your own most recent activities across the site. In 30 seconds, I can find out what my family, my college friends, my current friends, and even some of my work contacts have been doing. If I think my own “mini-feed” has too much information in it, I can adjust it item-by-item to leave no trace.
In the past, while Facebook users hung out changing things on the site all day long, it appeared static. To figure out what was new, members had to organize their friends’ pages by most recently updated, or visit their pages to get their current status (for some heavy users, this is frequently adjusted down-to-the-minute location/state of mind information). It’s not clear that Facebook is worth billions of dollars, but it’s nice to see the company forgoing page views and its old way of doing things to make itself much more useful.