Facebook announced Wednesday three significant updates to the site: the ability to download your information, a new dashboard to monitor applications' data access, and a revamped version of Groups to share private content with specific users.
1. Groups: Share, chat, and email with small groups of friends
The biggest update to Facebook, announced last by CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, is a complete rehaul of the way Groups work on the site.
Intended to address the fact that users’ social networks no longer offer private spaces for sharing and discussing specific topics relevant to only a few people, Groups offers that private space anew. Maybe you’re a music fiend that loves sharing the latest YouTube videos with your other musically-inclined friends, but you don’t want to clutter everyone’s news feed with your postings. Or you and your cyclist friends like updating each other about how many miles you biked each day, but you don’t want everyone else to see.
Designed to be a far more immersive experience than it ever was before, the new Facebook Groups invites users to share relevant content with the few people who care in a close-knit space.
Creating a new group is incredibly simple. The admin chooses a name and avatar (from 21 choices) for the group, adds friends as members, and selects a privacy level: Open (members and content are both public), Closed (members are public, content is private), and Secret (members and content are both private).
Once the group is created, admins (at first, only the creator is an admin) can edit any of the aforementioned settings, write a description, add a group photo, and add more members. Immediately, all users can make posts to the group, just like they would anywhere else on Facebook, attaching photos, videos, links, etc.
Additionally, Facebook has also added another option for sharing called Docs, a wiki-like collaborative tool with endless uses (shopping lists? menus?). Even cooler is the ability to simultaneously chat with any online group members. That’s right, Facebook has launched group chat.
Developers will be happy to know that Facebook has already made the Graph API for Groups available.
2. New Dashboard: Applications You Use
The less interesting (though not less important) update got sandwiched between the two big ones: another dashboard upgrade.
Users now have a single page where they can view all applications they’ve authorized, what data those apps access, and when they accessed it. These kind of granular controls might seem a little obsessive, but for a site hosting and sharing increasingly more information about its users, it is essential for us to have this as an option.
3. Download Your Information
Data and privacy control are two of the most recurring topics in discussions about Facebook, and it’s unlikely they’re going away anytime soon. But Zuckerberg wants to reassure everyone that user data belongs to the user.
To that end, Facebook has decided to give users the option to download all their data from the site. Rolling out today, the service is incredibly simple: you only need to navigate to Account Settings, click Download Your Information, and, after gathering all your notes, wall posts, photos, everything, Facebook will email you a ZIP archive containing all your Facebook data.
The package is designed for “normal people” not developers, says Product Manager David Recordon, so the data is presented in a easy-to-read format.
This is a really interesting feature for Facebook to provide themselves because it seems like users would only use it if they were about to deactivate their account. As Zuckerberg suggested, this one’s really not for Facebook at all, it’s for users. We should be able to take our information anywhere we want.