Google has drawn Facebook into a battle that it can’t win.Over the last few weeks, Facebook has been adding features to sort your friends into groups like Close Friends, Acquaintances, and other groups you can set up yourself, like Work Buddies and Secret Crushes and Useful Idiots.
There’s also a new Subscribe button, which lets you follow people without requiring them to follow you back — like Twitter.
According to a new post on the Facebook blog, Facebook will then figure out which stories to put up top in your News Feed based on how close you are to the person, and when you last looked at your Facebook page.
All of this is an obvious response to Google+ Circles, which lets Google users do the same kind of thing — you can organise your friends into different circles, then pick whose updates you want to see, who you want to ignore, and so on.
Who has time for all this?
I just spent 30 minutes reorganising my Facebook friends, and I’m still not sure why. Will I really find Facebook any more useful because my feed is rearranged in a different order?
Similarly, I spend almost as much time figuring out who to add to Google+ and where to add them as I do actually reading posts.
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner made a very good point in a conference a couple months ago: social networking is a zero-sum game. The more time you spend on one social network, the less you have for another.
That time is already scarce — we’ve got Facebook for friends, LinkedIn for professional contacts, Twitter for quick news hits and witty commentary, Tumblr for whatever people use Tumblr for, and Google+ because it’s Google and that little red notification bug appears everywhere. Plus all the time we spend using instant messaging, email, and other forms of communication.
Facebook should resist going any farther down this path.
It’s an entertainment platform, not a computing utility. Instead, Facebook should focus whole-hog on adding cool new entertainment features like music, which we’ll hear more about on Thursday.
But isn’t it better to give people more control? Won’t this help Facebook keep the hardcore tech users who might otherwise defect to Google?
But when people spend more time organising their social networks than being social with them, social networking is dead.
Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing for Google.
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