Facebook to Let Us Be Choosier About Friends

Posted by: Rob Hof on September 30, 2007

In the works at Facebook, according to an official posting, is a way to “sort out your friends”—something many people have been asking about for awhile as older folks join and get increasingly uneasy about mixing work and pleasure quite so seamlessly. As the notice says:

We’ll let you organize that long list of friends into groups so you can decide more specifically who sees what.

Some folks think this will be the end of professional networking services such as LinkedIn and Xing. I’m not so sure. Although I’m increasingly using Facebook for work, I have no intention of just dropping LinkedIn, where my network has also been growing in recent months.

Plus, it’s more different than people realize: Facebook, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg often points out, is for making your existing social network more useful. LinkedIn’s essential value is for meeting people you don’t know yet, but who know people you know so you have a natural way to get introduced. These services may overlap (more and more, as LinkedIn’s recent decision to allow posting of a photo on your profile), but I think they’re distinct enough to be useful.

Anyway, this will be a very welcome development if Facebook does it right. As Stowe Boyd points out, the real value would be not in creating new, discrete groups, but in enabling “groupings” where we can associate our various levels of friends with multiple tags such as “work,” “play,” “San Francisco,” and the like.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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