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Facebook New Feature: The start of a Beautiful Friendship (Page)?

9 November 2010 BY

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Facebook have released a new, slightly creepy feature, apparently around a week ago. I’m not sure if this is a phased roll-out, or if I’m just not watching closely enough, as I discovered this feature yesterday. Hang tight and I’ll take you on a little pedestrian journey through my social sphere and then we won’t be strangers any more.

Lunchtime – I see that my friend and fellow SEO Chicks and State of Search blogger Lisa Myers, has posted a new picture of baby Isla. I click on the picture and write my comment, then go to Lisa’s profile, to update myself on what she’s been up to in the past few days of maternity leave. That’s when I spotted this…

View “You and Lisa”.

Facebook screenshot showing new link to Friendship page

I had absolutely no idea what this could be, and wondered if perhaps Lisa had discovered some loopy exploit and created something herself. My tiny mind hadn’t grasped the next obvious stage in the FB development course. Which was this…

Image of Lisa D Myers and Nichola Stott' Friendship Page

This is the new home of mine and Lisa’s entire online relationship as it pertains to each other, on Facebook. Every photo we have tagged pertaining to the other, every wall post from one to the other, every comment, event we’ve both attended, everything we both like. Thankfully not our mutual messages, as nobody needs to see that level of swearing. After the implications had begun to dawn on me, I checked a few other of my “friendship pages”, just to check the level of interaction betwixt myself and others. No big surprises (obviously – I mean I am 50% of the page so there shouldn’t be any huge shockers here) and satisfied that I have the gist of this new feature, I turn to Twitter and bleat into the ‘verse as follows…

Screenshot of Tweet about Facebook Friendship Pages

Which generates some interesting conversations, with persons more well-informed than myself.  The wonderfully helpful @Inoperante2 from Manchester based, Fluid Creativity, tells me that the feature seemed to slide in around a week ago; then proceeded to source two great articles for me on ReadWriteWeb.

The first, by Marshall Kirkpatrick, explains the new feature and considers some of the implications of having a new home for mutual likey-likely. Kirkpatrick asks “how many covert romantic relationships, secret workplace alliances and other close relationships that are visible but not emphasized will be made very explicit using this new feature?” On the other hand, the positive implications of this feature are considered too. Kirkpatrick imagines how fun this will be for the FB kids. Those of the generation who have grown up with Facebook, and can gaze back with nostalgia at their college years and the people who meant so much to them then.

In the second piece from ReadWriteWeb, entitled Facebook Friendship Pages Are Just Plain Creepy, Mike Melanson writes “there’s one key thing I take issue with – the ability to look at other peoples’ relationships”.

Melanson is correct; this is indeed where is begins to get not just creepy, but downright voyeuristic. I should point out that by “other peoples relationships”, I can view the “friendship” page of two other people that are also my friends – as an example Lisa D Myers and her husband Jon. I cannot view the friendship page of say Lisa, and one of her friends that I am not connected to. Either way – kind of creepy don’t you think?

Fair enough, Lisa and I run our own search and social media agencies; we both are familiar with Facebook privacy settings and are fully aware of the implications of our online interactions, (and of course I have her permission to use the above references in this post.) That said, to be able to see the totality of interactions between two individuals over time – whether we are connected to them or not, feels a little invasive to say the least.

What Are the Potential Implications for the Social Graph?

In terms of the gameplan for this feature, one might imagine this could be useful in helping you decide whether or not to accept a friend request from a friend of a friend. Someone you may “know of” but not know directly. Perhaps seeing the friendship page of this lesser known and your immediate friend could be useful in assessing the acceptance of a request, thus helping to grow the social graph beyond the limits of “in real life” friendships that Facebook seems to have (certainly for non-spam accounts and certainly when compared to Twitter.)

In addition, I wonder if this will impact on the new Facebook and Bing search integration? US users already see results that our friends “like” highlighted; so why not place even greater emphasis on results that are “double liked”?

Either way, Facebook is certainly steaming ahead in terms of closing all the loops along the social graph. It feels to me like we’re only just getting started on the true implications. As Facebook and Google move towards surfacing greater levels of data in many more intricate ways perhaps we will see an increasing fragmentation of the way we use social sites in order to retain some privacy somewhere?


AUTHORED BY:
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Nichola Stott is owner and co-founder of theMediaFlow; online revenue optimisation and audience services (including SEO, SEM and SMM). Prior to founding theMediaFlow, Nichola spent four years at Yahoo! as head of UK commercial search partners.
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