FaceBook announced a feature that gives its users more control and customization option in making their profile information visible to selected contacts.
An excerpt from AP:
For example, someone who uploads a racy batch of photos or lists his cell phone number or personal e-mail address on his Facebook page can now bar some people on list of friends from seeing any of that information.
It was time that FaceBook added some feature to send out the message that it cares about user privacy. Particularly after the Beacon debacle, where the feature tracked the merchandise purchased by people and sent out notifications to their FaceBook contacts, FaceBook would be keen to publicize its privacy friendly credentials.
The 67 million strong community on FaceBook consists of two-thirds user base outside the US. The new privacy feature will help users to apply group access controls to their profile information.
The group privacy controls take advantage of “friends lists,” a feature that was introduced in December and helps members organize friends in their network into groups. These private lists allow users to direct messages to selected friends or filter what personal details those groups see. Users can create as many as 100 different “friends lists.”
In addition, the social networking site is adding a new Instant Messaging feature as a web application that will let its users chat with their contacts from the site itself.
Facebook Chat, a new application, will provide a way for Facebook users to chat with their friends within the browser. There will be no download required to use the chat service — it’s purely a web app. On the downside, there’s no group chat function and no “away” status messages. Also, it will exist within Facebook alone and no API will be made available. However, Facebook says it will not restrict access to other third-party chat applications written by independent developers or force users to keep Facebook’s chat service turned on.
All this is interesting because it justifies the price (considered high) that Microsoft paid for a stake in the site that took its net value to a whooping $15 billion. Its about creating an ecosystem of web applications around a person’s profile which might negate the need to actually go out of a social network for any activity on the internet. Toss a relevant web search feature in and who knows, it might just be the first dent in Google’s search hits.