Now Taking Subscriptions

by Feedback

The word “subscribe” is about to enter your daily vernacular with the addition of a new feature on Facebook that will allow users to better personalize their online experience.

Facebook has unveiled – in an attempt to curb the growth and keep up with features of Twitter, Google+ and others like it – a feature called “Subscribe,” which will allow Facebook users to, well, subscribe to the news of others. You’ll be able to begin hand-picking the content you want to view on your wall, thus fine-tuning the Facebook experience to your liking instead of having to see the somewhat random mess of updates from an array of people.

Subscribe is completely optional; if you don’t use it, Facebook will continue to run as it always does.

But for those who choose to use Subscribe, the benefits could be many. Like Twitter, instead of “friending” a celebrity or someone you’re really not friends with but are otherwise interested in, Subscribing will let you simply follow their updates (provided the person allows subscribers) without getting all their personal details. Subscribe means that popular or up-and-coming performers, writers, singers or comedians will see their stars shine a bit brighter. Self-proclaimed social media gurus will begin to measure their self-worth on the number of Subscribers they have. And you may find yourself with people you truly don’t know who are interested in what you have to share.

Subscribing may be the answer to keeping people on Facebook while tightening the experience to meet the demands of what people are looking for in today’s social networks: greater control, a more personalized experience, and a reason to stay at Facebook instead of another service: the people.

Facebook, unlike the rash of other services available, already has the critical mass. Yet if you take the pulse of savvy web users and even everyday Facebook users, you’ll hear stories of Facebook fatigue, the desire for more control over content, the need for privacy, or simply that they’ve done everything they can do on the site and are moving on. And while it is still growing, that growth is perhaps slowing (even dropping by 6 million users in May, Inside Facebook reports). It’s no death knell, but it could be telling.

For these reasons, we’re seeing more niche, focused communities pop up on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Path and other platforms. They are more private, and the people on them more difficult to find.

This “privitization” of social networks is a trend we’ve been watching closely. And Facebook is about to board this train in a big way.

Not all of this is new, revolutionary or mind-blowing. But Facebook Subscribe is a bit of a mind-blower when you apply what this is and does to the masses of the social network, the paradigms in play in digital media, and the ever-increasing complexity of the modern identity.

Does it mean everyone will use and understand Subscribing right out of the gate? No, but its very existence is a product of some other trends and thoughts. For months (which is how we count technology time) people have been organizing their lives into separate places: Twitter for public thoughts, Tumblr as an extension of that community or to share personal interests with others, photo-sharing apps like Path or Instagram to share slice-of-life pictures and video.

Up until now, Facebook wasn’t really adequate in separating content as well as simple privacy. But with Subscribing, now even the non-savvy can start stratifying in new ways. People will share more, and less. Lives will take new shapes to certain people. And therefore, so will identities.

The layers of social soil just got more interesting for your garden.


Anti-Social Networking

by Feedback

Sharing. It’s become an epidemic. Pictures, words, locations and more, presented to our friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers.

It’s refreshing, then, that one of the latest trends we’re monitoring is that of the closed, private network. Read More »


A foundation is laid for “Selective Connection”

by Feedback

Like any other member of the early-adopter subset of users out there (yes, I count myself as one), I try to get my name onto as many social networks I can just to get to know the latest up-and-coming technologies. I sign up, test ‘em, then continue on or throw them out after a few weeks. Each network – and there are dozens – gets a fair shot at earning my approval.

I’m presently putting a new social network, Quora, through its paces. So far, so good. It’s all part of my interest in seeing what works for people and businesses/clients -and what doesn’t.

I recently reviewed a social network called Path that bills itself as an “anti-social network” of sorts wherein it limits a user to 50 friends. I like it and continue to use it, and recommend you do, too. And after a few weeks of use, I’ve come to realize that digital services that require a user to selectively limit their friend list to a small number of connections must be getting the idea from other networks, where such friend-limiting activity happens naturally.

At Feedback, we call this phenomenon “Selective Connection.” Take LinkedIn, for example.

Where Facebook has now become the primary network that enables friends to find each other after losing touch with one another over time, LinkedIn has become a quiet network for business professionals.

Most users typically keep their personal profiles on other social networks separated from their LinkedIn profiles for good reason: it’s a professional network for the purpose of being professional. Nowhere on LinkedIn do you ever anticipate that photo of you doing a kegstand to appear. Instead, it’s the place where you can share your talent and skills, learn more about others, and make recommendations and engage in meaningful professional discussion.

The limitations that a user has come to expect on LinkedIn were welcomed in business world much faster than Facebook’s more casual usage and customs. Sure, LinkedIn has integration with Twitter accounts to allow for cross-posting of content that might have something to do with your job. But overall, LinkedIn is kept pretty civil.

So you might start to wonder, why hasn’t Facebook come in and taken command of the online business networking scene? Can’t Facebook flip a switch and do that?

Of course not. Well, not presently, anyway.

A recent conversation that I had on Twitter concluded with the revelation that the social graph online has been replicated from what has long existed outside of the Internet: Some people keep work at work, while some might want to keep home at home.

How Facebook operates right now on a fundamental level is drawn straight from the actions of promoting someone that you just met to a level of friendship. As Facebook continues to grow, the assumed action and reaction of sending and accepting a friend request is slowly solidified as the proper etiquette.

A separate network, LinkedIn, exists for those who feel that they don’t want to share what might appear on their Facebook profile with those at their workplace or potential employer. For those who don’t want to share every particular photo with all of their Facebook or Twitter followers, there is a network like Path.

And there will be more to come, as closed-circle networks and selective connection becomes one of the latest darlings of the new media industry. While it seems like a niche market, closed-circle social networks continue to grow and become successful. LinkedIn might be a closed or specialized network with the most amount of visibility, but smaller online venues could influence the direction that networks are taking in 2011 and beyond.

-Brad (@bcarr)


The Not-So-Public Path

by Feedback

A screen shot of Path's iPhone app

Up-and-coming social network Path has been getting quite a bit of buzz lately for its user-friend limits and its closed nature. The premise is fairly simple: take a photo, tag it in at least one of three categories named “People”, “Place”, and “Thing” and share it with up to 50 friends, but no more.

Path aims to simplify tagging images by the use of auto-complete for all three of its fields. Whether suggesting what you’re about to type in the Things field, auto-completing names for the People field or listing local venues based on your GPS, Path attempts to take the guess work out of what to post with your photo, by simply stating the facts.

The limit will have users who are savvy with social networking shocked for a moment, but the minimalistic design and function of the app and the website make Path a concise, easy-to-use network.

— Brad (@bcarr)