Facebook has unveiled a new Groups feature, which enables users of the social networking site to organise their circle of friends in to groups according to likes and interests. But what do industry insiders think of this new initiative?
Inside Social Games: “The new Facebook Groups could. have important potential for game-related groups ... It opens up more communications channels for players – while this point seems obvious, having to coordinate channels off Facebook has been a barrier that has kept all but the most hard-core players from having real interaction around a game. [It allows for] more real-time co-ordination between players – while most Facebook games are built for asynchronous play, some have experimented with in-game chat and groups.
"Facebook is now offering another channel for real-time communications, left under the control of players. [It has] potential benefits to retention – once players have formed tightly-knit groups around a certain game, they’re less likely to stop playing.
"Users who were too shy to talk about games in their main feed will now also have another outlet. [It will result in] fewer spam apps – hundred of apps built specifically for players of large games like Farmville have popped up on Facebook; most have subsequently been banned. Groups provide a good alternative.”
San Francisco Chronicle: “Facebook is basically taking aim at a bunch of group collaboration services here, and trying to make Facebook a one-stop shop for this sort of activity.
"These include Asana, a group-collaboration site being developed by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz; 37signals, makers of the Campfire chat service; Yammer, the Twitter-for-your-company; Google, especially Google Wave; AOL, whose AIM has needed a makeover for more than a decade. And a zillion other group-collaboration products.
"That’s not to say Facebook will succeed in destroying these sites. Facebook Groups is a simple product; not very complex or innovative. But it's built into Facebook, which instantly gives it the world's best social graph, and a huge audience.”
PC World: “Facebook's new features will fundamentally change the way many people use the site. Revamped Groups and a control centre for third-party applications will put those at ease who want to play on Facebook without accidentally oversharing with the wrong audience ... If more users hide activities behind closed Groups that they would normally broadcast broadly on Facebook, nosy relatives, advertisers, or curious onlookers may find themselves shut out of a newly cliquish virtual world.
"That's great if you're wary of sharing too much information, but it also changes the character of a site that has offered a sort of freewheeling, stream-of-consciousness way of learning about "friends" on walls and via news feeds.
"Facebook may evolve into an ecosystem or "social platform" of communities that are more self-segregated than in the past.
"In any case, maybe it's time for Facebook users to judge each other by the content and character of their groups rather than the sheer number of friends.”
Washington Post: “But Groups might not be all collaborative, clubby goodness. At their worst, they could combine the run-on chattiness of an email thread among friends with the privacy issues you fear when friends tag you in photos, video and notes.
"And since your friends cannot only add you to groups (subject to your veto) but add pals to the groups you create, they could get a little spammy over time.”
Boston University Quad Blog: “Zuckerberg’s main assumption, that the biggest challenge in social networking is communicating in small groups, is correct ... Unfortunately, I think Facebook has made two fundamental mistakes in how they’ve chosen to solve it.
"First, in his talk announcing the feature, Zuckerberg called this a natural “social solution” to the problem of sharing information in groups, because a small subset of people will build groups for everyone (the way it’s worked for tagging photos).
"Unfortunately, this very feature that makes photo tagging work makes groups useless, because the definition of a group is that it is exclusive ... Secondly, public groups don’t work in the current social context. Why? Because we all have different interests that go beyond the scope of our Facebook friends.
"Being invited to a public group about computers, let’s say, by another friend who likes computers is great. Now what? I can discuss computers with a bunch of strangers, but I’m not going to friend any of them, because the point of Facebook (and especially these new groups) is precisely not to proliferate your connections beyond your ability to keep up with them ... New public groups are going to be not just useless like they were before, but now also highly irritating for the reasons outlined above.”
Silicon Republic: “[Facebook Groups] will certainly be useful at filtering out the general noise that comes with social networks ... The key message here is context. After all, unlike the mad hoi-poloi that can be places like Twitter, this returns context to the original framework that is Facebook.
"You may have 300 or 600 friends, but who are the ones who really know you or fit into specific relationships based on politics, hobbies or career? Context, in my opinion, was the glue that made Facebook stickier than Twitter.”
Cnet: “Facebook Groups are about to be the bane of junior high school guidance counsellors everywhere: ‘SHE DEGROUPED ME!’”
Forbes: “The company is attempting to address a fundamental problem to its service: the lack of ability to share information and content with only a subset of one’s entire friend list. But the new Groups misses the mark ... the problem with the new Groups is lack of incentives.
"Tagging people in photos is one thing. Tagging people in groups and then expecting accurate and agreed-upon groupings to arise naturally is an infinitely more tricky thing.
"Groups in real life aren’t easily defined, and are dynamic, slippery things. Even something seemingly as simple as a family group raises many issues.
"Who is considered family? The nuclear family? Extended family? God-parents and second cousins? Who gets to make these final decisions within a group?
"Asking group users to explicitly name these groupings on an online social network in black and white could easily lead to conflict and disagreements.”