Mike Isaac

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Facebook Aims to Court Teens With More Public Posting Options

teens_texting

Flickr/Ei Katsumata

The adage should be familiar by now: Teens may have a Facebook profile, but they sure don’t think it’s cool anymore.

In a move on Wednesday afternoon, however, Facebook is starting to become a bit like its younger, hipper competitors.

Starting this afternoon, new Facebook teenage users age 13 through 17 will now be able to create public posts viewable by any other user, whether or not they’re connected to one another on Facebook. Heretofore, teenagers were only allowed to make posts viewable to friends, or people that were one-degree separated from in their direct network (“friends of friends”).

Also, teens can also let people “follow” them (a la Twitter or Instagram) instead of befriending them, a way to cordon off the crowd that you only want to see certain types of posts.

Facebook postures the move as no big deal — just like any other social network would allow for.

“While only a small fraction of teens using Facebook might choose to post publicly, this update now gives them the choice to share more broadly, just like on other social media services,” Facebook said in a company blog post (italics mine).

And that, in and of itself, is an interesting statement. Some could argue that the entire original point of Facebook is that it wasn’t like other social networks such as Twitter; Facebook was the place to go for personal interactions with people you know. Twitter was the “global town square” where you could talk with anyone you wanted.

Facebook_F380But this is just another in a series of recent moves by Facebook to become a more public-facing network, one that, perhaps, the teens will enjoy all the more.

A few quick caveats: Teens who are new to the network will begin posting to “friends” by default, and pop-up tutorials will explain how to change privacy settings in case they want to go public. I imagine that could help Facebook dodge some early flak from privacy watchdogs.

And to be fair to Facebook, that’s a greater degree of flexibility and control in terms of sharing audience than Twitter, which basically has only two settings — public or private.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what the Facebook of, say, a year from now will look like, how different it may be from the one of just a few years ago. Perhaps it’ll be one that the kids think is pretty cool.

Or perhaps not.


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