Facebook Rolls Out New Groups, Privacy Controls

Mark Zuckerberg live event

Facebook held a special event at its headquarters today to announce three new products/features for the site.

Here they are:

  1. Users can download all their information now. Facebook takes all your stuff — photos, messages, updates, etc — puts it all in a zip file and emails it to you. It’s nice to have your stuff in one place, but we’re not sure why this one is a big deal. (Thoughts?)
  2. Better control over applications. Facebook added a dashboard to allow you to see all the applications you’ve used. You can see how the applications are accessing your data. You can change permissions and delete applications. Sounds like a smart option. Should have always been there.
  3. Facebook is revamping groups. This is important because Facebook is now a place where you’re “friends” with every person you ever meet. With the better groups you can interact with specific people more easily. 

And here’s our live blog of the event:

1:37: Waiting. People are just milling about.

1:40: There’s Zuckerberg…Not talking about what you think we’re talking about. “I’m really excited.”

1:41: We had a 60 day “lockdown” period, improving quality of things we’ve been working on. Look at photos.

1:41: With changes to photos, with hi-res, lightbox, in line viewing, makes photos app highest quality on web. We’ve improved others like chat.

1:43: He’s just rattling off tons and tons of improvements. Called Facebook Places app biggest checkin app in the world. (Take that Foursquare!)

1:44: On platform side, you get more activity from your friends with games.

1:44: We have a bunch more releases coming…just wanted to get all that out.

1:45: What we’re trying ot do is build a social PLATFORM. Difference between platform and application, application is for one use case. Platform brings all the applications into one place.

1:46: If we can build a broad social platform, then we can enable innovation on the best platforms you see. The key is building a system where people have control of their information in context.

We have three things to announce.

1:47: One of the big challenges making to take information to another service. So, over past few years working on Connect. Biggest service at large scale enables people to take things to other services and use in other contexts. It’s pretty good and around 1 million sites using it.

1:48: A lot of time people want a copy of all their information. “Download your information.” You zip up all the stuff you put on Facebook, we email you and you can download your file with all your information.

1:51: Second thing — apps that you use dashboard. You can see when they’re accessing your data and you can change and revoke permissions. Two meaningful changes for control of information that are pretty big steps.

1:52: An engineer — David Recordon — is talking about the download your information. It gets all zipped up and they email it to you. Neat…not sure if most people care. But, you get all your information in one place.

1:53: Security will be paramount. here’s what it looks like when you get your files.


1:55: Now Carl Sjogreen is talking about the app dashboard. You can manage permissions over time.


1:57: This makes sense to us. Surprised it wasn’t there earlier. That’s it..Mark is coming back.

1:58: Here’s the third thing — “internally we talk about as the biggest problem in social networking.”

Computer frozen…live stream blanking.

1:59: Looks like it has something to do with Groups. We’ve made it easy to share with everyone, or just your friends. But for some people just your friends is too much. Would I post this to all my friends that don’t care about running? This is a huge problem.

2:00: How do you solve this? How do you make it so people can map out real world friends. How to do each subgroup? Point isn’t just for a few people, but for all people.

2:01: A really big problem, then we can unlock a huge amount of sharing people want to do. So how do you solve this and map out all these sub groups?

2:02: Naive solution is something like friend lists. Well, really naive solution is you map it out on a per-event basis, but that’s a lot of work. Pretty brutal to do every single time.

2:03: Another solution instead of making list every time, let’s make it so you have friend lists. But we’ve only gotten 5% of users to make lists. Nobody wants to make lists.

2:04: So, next solution! “Let’s design an algorithm.” We can filter based on who you’re talking to, who you’re interacting with. But there are real limits to algorithmic solutions too. You might be talking to a carpenter whos doing work, but that doesn’t mean you’re friends.


2:07: On the other side, it’s almost worst when you get it right. Don’t want someone you’re flirting with at the top and an ex at the bottom of a list. People just don’t want to see that.

2:08: For all these reasons, we think there’s real bounds on algorithmic solutions.

2:09: There’s another thing — “social solutions to problems.” If you asked people what’s the way to get people tagging, they might say some complex face recognition algorithm. Instead, the answer is build a good interface so people can tag friends.

2:11: Three things we want: Map out real world groups, everyone participates, make it useful in a lot of contexts.

2:12: What we want to do is we want to get these groups. Build the best set of tools for people to communicate with these groups. We have a whole suite of products. More important is how this gets formed.

5-10% of people can set up the groups for others. This is a product but a fundamental building block.


2:14: Now Justin Shaffer, from Hot Potato is on stage. He’s the product manager for groups. You can post how day was in the family group he says. (His work at Hot Potato makes sense here. Groups sounds like specialised chat rooms.)

2:16: Groups live in the left nav on the page.

(Bear with us, we’re having a choppy signal.)

2:17: You can chat with your various groups.

2:18: Here’s Chris Cox. Social design is a new way to approach old problems. What are new ways to approach design. Original approach for the web borrowed from old page/magazine designs. Now it’s more advanced.

2:20: Now that there’s people and relationships that are a part of the web experience, we can approach it in a different way.

2:21: If you think about answering questions you can do with technology, or you can make a nice interface that gets people to come to the site and use it. trying to build groups so the effect of one person effects the people around them.

2:23: We’re trying to design a space because that’s how we think about privacy and conversations.

2:24: We’re giving you more control on privacy. Now taking questions…

2:27: Zuck: we want something simple to use that everyone will interact with. This will be in the API, so it will be across the web.

2:29: If you add someone to a group, then everyone knows in the group you did it.

2:31: Zuck, still: For brands we have pages. This is designed for small groups. We get a better map of social relationships. For brands, nothing stopping them, but pages is better for building a community.

2:33: Shaffer addressing question about people that don’t want to be a part of the group. If you’re added to a group, you can just leave. Then if they try to add you back, then you have to give permission.

2:35: Zuck: we aren’t trying to be hyperbolic when we say this is going to be a big shift. We think this is going to be a huge shift. Clearly a massive amount of value added on this.

2:39: Groups is fun man! You’re going to really love it.

2:40: We think you won’t get information overload.

2:51: The download your information — can you download, then upload to another site? Sure, but just use Facebook Connect. (Someone asked if you could download all your Facebook info, then upload it to a rival social net.)

2:52: Zuckerberg — we’re focused on your information with download your information. You can get your video, not just a link to the video. All your information, message updates, status, wall updates, etc.

2:56: Aaaaaaand we’re done.

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