Facebook Subscriptions Allow Granular Filtering

Facebook have unveiled their “subscription” system for pages that will function in a similar way to how following people on Twitter works. Users who subscribe to a Facebook page and eventually a profile will receive a notification when its owner published an update that they flag as ‘public’.

From Wednesday, users will begin to see a “Subscribe” button next to the “Message” and “Poke” buttons on Facebook profiles. You can subscribe to profiles and pages, and from there you can filter out what sort of updates you’d like to have in your news feed. There are some subtle differences in what you are able to control, depending on whether or not you are Facebook friends with users you subscribe to.

If you aren’t friends with someone you can still subscribe to their feed, and anything that they have labelled as ‘public’ will appear in your feed. You can also choose to only see status updates, and filter our game of photo updates for example. Obviously these all have to have been posted as ‘public’ by the author.

When it comes to your actual friends, subscribing affords you the ability to micromanage what you see from that user in your stream. You can see as much or as little as you want, so if you want to keep your finger firmly on the pulse with your best of best friends, you can set the Subscribe button to show “All Updates”. Likewise, if you want to ignore someone until they have something decent to say, there is the “Only Important” option for things like relationship statuses and the like.

The Subscribe feature is entirely optional, so you don’t actually have to subscribe to anybody at all, and if you don’t like the idea of complete strangers following you, you can either not make any of your updates public, or disable the Subscribe feature from your profile altogether.


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  4. Hello again Sophie, thank you for continuing to read and comment on this blog!

    You make a good point about the Subscribe feature weakening Google+’s currency with regards to circles, but I think Google are still slightly ahead on this one. However – and I may well be wrong here – my understanding is that the Facebook Subscribe feature is somewhat binary when it comes to your own output – either you allow people to subscribe to it or you don’t. There doesn’t appear to be any middle ground save for the fact that whenever you post an update or publish photos for example, you are given the option of ‘public’, ‘friends’ or ‘custom’. While this doesn’t sound like the ‘all or nothing’ scenario I formerly described, I think the custom setting has to be manually populated for each update, so in effect you are creating the Facebook equivalent of a Google+ circle every time that you want to post something that isn’t suitable or safe for all of your Facebook friends.

    That said, it still think it is a vast improvement, and the fact you will be able to filter out certain types of posts from certain friends without having to throw the baby out with the bath water is great. Say you have a handful of friends who link their Twitter accounts to their Facebook profile: One of those friends might be a prolific tweeter who clogs up your news feed – you don’t want to block him or her completely as they often post interesting content through the normal Facebook update mechanism. Likewise, you don’t want to hide all posts from Twitter as you’d then be missing out on what your other friends are tweeting. So you could just subscribe to only see that person’s photo or link posts, and you won’t have to see their Twitter output.

    So yes, I think it’s a big step forward, although there is certainly more control over your inbound information rather than outbound.

  5. A great idea from Facebook, providing competition to the Google+ circles feature. As Google+’s main differentiator, I wonder if it will still carry the same appeal now it no longer has such a strong USP.
    Sophie Hobson, deputy editor, London Loves Business

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