It’s a big week for Facebook. With their annual developer conference coming up, they’ve rolled out a few new features including “Smart Friend Lists” which I hadn’t even had a chance to write about here before today’s HUGE news: you can now subscribe to a personal profile’s public updates without having to friend them.
Here’s how it works. As you browse around the site, you’ll notice that some users have a button at the top of their profile that says ‘Subscribe’. Click it, and you’ll start seeing that user’s status updates in your News Feed, just as if you were their Facebook friend. But there’s a big difference: unlike normal Facebook friends, the people you subscribe to don’t have to approve your subscription request, and there’s no limit on how many people can subscribe to any given user.
Of course, Facebook has offered a similar feature called Pages for years now, which was meant for nearly the same thing (you’ll find that many journalists and politicians have already created Facebook Pages… because that’s what Facebook told them to do). The difference here, Facebook says, is that users no longer have to maintain two separate entities; they can just use the site’s sharing settings to decide which content they want to share very broadly, and what will only be shared with friends.