Facebook today is rolling out the first set of launches around its f8 developer conference this week, making user profiles more dynamic by transforming static interests (like cooking or hiking, or a certain band) into “community pages.” And it’s taking the opportunity to realign its privacy controls yet again, into two categories: information that a user owns — “personal information and posts” and information that’s jointly owned — “friends, tags and connections.” These are features and alignments that makes sense, but they add yet more complexity to topics — like privacy — that many users are confused by or not interested in.
The good news for privacy worrywarts is that they’ll now be able to control who sees their friend list, current city and pages — information that had previously defaulted to public. Hiding friend lists was Facebook’s most-requested privacy feature, said product marketing manager Ana Yang on a call about the new features. Half of Facebook’s users have customized their privacy settings to date, about 20 percent before December and 30 percent since the big controversial revision at that time.
As for making profiles more dynamic, Facebook will also be revising its understanding of user interests. All users will today be asked about displaying the interests and institutions they’re already affiliated with more prominently in their profiles. And instead of becoming fans of pages, they’ll now indicate their affiliation by “liking” them.
The company noted that three times more people have connected to an official brand page than filled out the text on their profiles about what they were interested in, so the new “community pages” are meant to fill that gap. They can be started by anyone, and they use Wikipedia text licensed by Facebook to provide information about a topic as well as user contributions. “Our goal with pages is to create the best collection of shared knowledge on a topic, but obviously we’re not there yet,” Yang said. She said she expects there to be some redundant community pages, and that Facebook will evaluate them later in the beta rollout.
Facebook has also built new features that enable users to drag and drop their most current interests in their profile and for visitors to see hovercards when they mouse over interests to learn more about them. Pages are public by default.
Please see the disclosure in my bio about Facebook.