Facebook Goes Public With New Sharing Options

Facebook introduced two features Wednesday that should better position the social networking site as a source of real-time information on the web. One lets users make their updates accessible to anyone online if they wish, while the other enables outside sites to feature a relevant stream of updates from Facebook members.

The company said that any developer would now easily be able to install a “Facebook Live Stream Box” on their website. The box showcases a constantly refreshing stream of updates from Facebook users that can accompany a live streamed event. (See example above.) It had already been used by a select group of websites, including CNN, as a way to run user-generated commentary adjacent to live video. Comments are shared simultaneously on both the third-party site and on the users’ Facebook page, in order to encourage contributions (and visits) from friends. Separately, Facebook said that it is testing a feature that lets users select specifically who they want to share their updates with. “You may have some posts you want to share with a wide audience, such as whom you voted for or how great the weather is today,” Facebook’s Olaoluwa ‘Ola’ Okelola explained in a blog post.

Both moves reemphasize that Facebook wants its service to be just as widely used as a place to see real-time information online as Twitter. Facebook had already introduced a number of Twitter-like features, including the prominent stream of updates on users’ home pages. Last week, it also said it had started to test a Twitter-like search function that will let people sift through those updates. For the revamped search engine to get outside traction, however, it will likely need more users’ to make their information public. The ability to specify that a specific post can be seen by anybody online should aid that.