September 20 2011
by Thanasis Delistathis

Facebook launches “Subscribe” button: worlds collide

In a bid to stay ahead of competitors Twitter and Google+, Facebook quietly launched a new way to share and receive news on its network.  It’s called the “Subscribe” button and allows me to follow “public” news updates of other Facebook users even if they are not friends in my network.  That comes on the heels of introducing new ways for users to control who can see my status updates at the individual update level.  This creates more flexibility but also makes the system more complex.

Things were so orderly until now.  Twitter is a broadcast system so I use it for all public updates and pronouncement for all those that want to hear what I have to say.  Anyone can follow me and what I have to say to the public: @tdelistathis.  Facebook was for my friends.  I tried to keep Facebook updates private for people I know.  Now it is confusing.  It kind of feels that my two worlds are colliding.  (Who remembers the famously funny episode from Seinfeld?)

Facebook is clearly the largest social media platform out there.  But Twitter and Google+ are trying to compete with different features.  Twitter is an open mic to the world, while Google+ introduced the concept of circles to allow discriminating sharing based on groups (not all friends are created equal).  Facebook is clearly worried that those feature differences may give the others an edge.  While it’s great to be able to tailor my interaction with Facebook, I feel that the public broadcast feature is moving the platform in a direction where it is losing its essence and perhaps creating an opening for Google+.

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