Facebook threatens Twitter with new Subscriptions

Ronny Kerr · September 14, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/1ef1

Now you can follow users' public updates by subscribing to them, without being their friend

There was a time when it seemed obvious that Facebook and Twitter could be major competitors. Over the past couple years, however, Facebook has emphasized its purpose as a social network for the people you really know and want to know about, while Twitter has increasingly cast itself as a full-fledged information network.

Now, in a new (but expected) twist, peace between the two might be ending.

Facebook announced Wednesday the launch of the Subscribe button, a new tool that gives users more control over what stories exactly they see in their News Feed.

The first aspect of this isn’t too exciting: users can now pick and choose exactly how much they see from certain friends (“All updates,” “Most updates,” or “Important updates only”). It’s a nice way of fine-tuning the News Feed, but it’s not earth-shattering.

The second part of today’s update, however, brings a Twitter-style follow feature to Facebook’s platform. Essentially, any user can make their Facebook a public platform for only updates they’ve specifically marked as “public.” (You have to enable the feature here.) Then when a user (who isn’t your friend) visits your profile, they can choose to subscribe to your public updates.

“Until now, it hasn't been easy to choose exactly what you see in your News Feed,” writes Facebook engineer Zach Rait in today’s announcement. “Maybe you don't want to see every time your brother plays a game on Facebook, for example. Or maybe you'd like to see more stories from your best friends, and fewer from your coworkers.

“You also couldn't hear directly from people you're interested in but don't know personally—like journalists, artists and political figures.”

Journalists, artists and political figures? That’s a pretty basic laundry list of the people I follow on Twitter. And I’m sure the same is true for many other users.

Today’s update follows--by just a day--an announcement from Facebook that in the coming days, it will be easier to sort your friends into Friend Lists like “work” or “acquaintances,” a huge swipe at new social network competition from Google+. In less than 48 hours then, Facebook has motioned massive threats to both Twitter and Google+ by mimicking their most fundamental features.

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