Facebook Adds More Group Control, Data Export, App Dashboard

Published on October 6, 2010
by John Paczkowski

In the end, it wasn’t a revamped Events service that Facebook announced at its invite-only media event today. It wasn’t a “check-in” feature, a new iteration of Facebook Credits, a partnership with Skype or a showing of “The Social Network” with a frame-by-frame refutation by Mark Zuckerberg.

In the end, it was a series of service enhancements–three, to be exact, offering more-granular sharing controls, the ability to export your data and an apps dashboard.

“I promise we’re not going to talk today about anything that you’ve been reading in the news media,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this morning. “It’s something a lot more exciting.”

“One of the big challenges for us is making it safe and easy for people to take their information to other services,” he continued. “People own their information and they should be able to take it with them wherever they want and use it however they want, in a variety of social contexts. A lot of the time people just want to have a copy of all the information they’ve put in Facebook. This is a core thing for us. People need to be able to put their information into Facebook and then take it out.”

And so Facebook is addressing that need with Download Your Information, a service that allows Facebook users to, you guessed it, easily download their information and use it to interact in a variety of social situations.

Also announced this morning, a new apps dashboard called “Applications You Use.” This offers a higher level of visibility into the apps people are using and how those apps are using their information.

Finally, the company announced a solution to what it described as social networking’s “big problem.”

“We have at Facebook what we like to call ‘The Big Problem,'” Zuckerberg said. “You have these different social circles and you want to interact with them in different ways. The reality is that for a lot of people ‘just your friends’ isn’t really private. And what a lot of people want to do is to be able to share among smaller groups within their friends….This isn’t just a problem with Facebook, but across all the applications in the ecosystem. So how do you solve this problem of subgroups?”

Evidently, there are a number of approaches. Facebook’s finally decided on one, and it’s the best of the bunch–better than any list or algorithmic solution you might conceive of. “What we think is the right solution and the one that’s going to work and be a fundamental building block of Facebook and social applications going forward,” Zuckerberg said, adding that Facebook’s solution will “blow everyone else away.”

And that solution is? An enhanced version of Facebook Groups, consisting of Shared Space, group chat and email lists.

Shared space–according to former Hot Potato CEO Justin Shaffer, who’s been quarterbacking the project since Facebook acquired his company–works pretty much as you’d expect. Create a group, add some friends and voilà: a solution to The Big Problem.

Making these advances possible is something Facebook refers to as “Social Design.” This is why Shared Space is called “space” and isn’t just a simple friend filter–even though that’s really what it appears to be. This is all, of course, part of Facebook’s “share more” philosophy, and the company clearly thinks that by allowing users to share more privately–i.e., within smaller groups of friends–they will share more. That means more user activity and data for Facebook, and the privacy concerns that go along with that.

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