It was rumored back in August that Facebook would be adding friend lists to the site. Many speculated about how exactly friend lists would work and how exactly it might spell the death of the Top Friends app by Slide. Today, four months later, the feature has launched. Were the predictions true? Here are some thoughts:
1) For now, friend lists are private and cannot be made public. Moreover, lists cannot be accessed by the API. Thus no RIP for Top Friends just yet. It’s possible users may be given the option to make lists public and API’s may be able to access lists in the future. For now, though, it would seem that Levchin and Co are okay – heck it wouldn’t surprise me if Slide and RockYou used their leverage to influence Facebook’s decision on this issue.
2) Some other posts have implied that Facebook provides a news feed specifically for each list. That’s false. You cannot currently see a news feed for a specific friend list. You are able to see a list of most updated profiles and status updates for friends of each list though.
3) Anyone suggesting that this feature is a LinkedIn killer needs to do some deeper thinking. I’m not saying that Facebook doesn’t already provide much of the value (keeping track of contacts, people browsing/hunting, etc.) that LinkedIn does, but these private friend lists don’t add much incremental value in making Facebook a professional tool. Facebook already provides enough tools to search through your friends if you need to pinpoint a certain friend or a friend matching a certain (network, interest, etc.)
4) So what does this do? Adds more, finer edges to the social graph. My best bet is that these lists will be exposed via the API such that both Facebook and third-party app developers as well as advertisers (again more edges on the social graphs means more ways to discover behavioral and interest patterns between persons in the social graph) wil be able to take advantage.
5) Why did friend lists take so long to launch? It was four months ago that the API tool dropped a hint as to this functionality. Four months is an eternity in Facebook time. Unless I’m missing something, this feature – in it’s current state – would not have taken that long to develop. Hence, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more than meets the eye here. We’ll find out soon enough…