A

A visual map of the world's Facebook connections. Courtesy Flickr/dullhunk

 

 

To enhance organization and relevancy within its News Feed feature, Facebook launched the Subscribe button today, which lets users follow the public updates of other users, even if you're not Facebook friends with them.

Soon, users will begin to see a Subscribe button appear on their friends' profiles, right beside the Message and Poke buttons.

We want to give people more control over what people see in their News Feeds, says Facebook product manager Naomi Gleit. Facebook is growing quickly and people have more and more friends, but they care about different people more or less, and different stories more or less.

While Twitter and Google+ already have similar follow features on their social networks, the Subscribe button differentiates itself in its customization. For example, users can choose to view a person's status updates but not their game, photo, or application updates. Additionally, users can choose to see All Updates from a friend, or if they only care about when major life events occur, such as engagements or births, users can select the Only Important option.

Until now, it hasn't been easy to choose exactly what you see in your News Feed, writes Facebook software engineer Zach Rait in a blog post. Maybe you don't want to see every time your brother plays a game on Facebook, for example. Or maybe you'd like to see more stories from your best friends, and fewer from your co-workers.

More private Facebook users may wince when they hear that Facebook now also allows people to subscribe to your page, even if they're not your Facebook friend. However, non-Facebook friends don't have the same customization options and can't control which updates are displayed. In this way, non-friend subscriptions are like follows on Twitter.

And while subscribing offers more control over one's News Feed than ever before, the feature is 100 percent optional. Users don't have to subscribe to anybody if they don't want to, and private users who cringe at the idea of non-friends being able to follow Facebook updates can choose to switch off the Subscribe button on your own profile so nobody can subscribe to your updates. Furthermore, non-Facebook friends can't control which updates are displayed, which is similar to Twitter's follow format.

Also like Twitter, Facebook users will be able to view how many subscribers they have and how many people they subscribe to. Furthermore, once the Subscribe button is in place, any accepted friend requests will automatically be subscribed to your public updates, unless you turned off the Subscribe feature. Existing friend requests will not be affected, however.

Users will always complain over any changes to their beloved social network, but Facebook's Subscribe button has potential to be the best addition since the Like button. Despite all of the upsides to Facebook, there was previously no way to control what comes through the News Feed, which consequently subjected users to irrelevant and unwanted updates. The Subscribe button makes sharing important statuses, links, and images extremely efficient and useful, especially if you can build an audience.

Facebook has always been working on giving users more control, Gleit says. Some people who post publicly have a public presence and want to interact with people beyond their friends. This allows them to reach people beyond their friends.