Speculation: Facebook adding Friend Lists; implications for Top Friends, LinkedIn?

We knew it would happen, we just didn’t know it might happen this soon.

I just received a tip from top application developer Trey Philips that Facebook has added two new undocumented functions to its API Test Console this evening that appear to reference an as-yet-unreleased feature called “Friend Lists.”

The two new API methods are:

  • friends.getLists
  • friends.getListsMembers

Based on these method names, “Friend Lists” could be buddy lists that you might use to organize your friends. For example, “Work Friends” or, say… “Top Friends”.

If these are indeed upcoming features of the Facebook Platform, I think this has two major implications:

1. This could dramatically simplify privacy controls. Right now, users manage privacy settings per-feature or by managing their Limited Profile list. The addition of Friend Lists means one can now much more flexibly and powerfully manage privacy settings per List. Work friends see one portion of your profile, personal friends see another, best friends see yet another.

This will be a welcome change for everyone whose LinkedIn networks have migrated to Facebook. Consequently, this could mean accelerated LinkedIn attrition: per-Friend-List privacy settings could substantially decrease the need of many to actively maintain their LinkedIn accounts as well.

2. More significant, this would mark the first time Facebook has moved to directly compete with a top Platform application. The dynamics here are more complex: Slide, maker of Top Friends, the #1 application on Facebook with over 13 million users, is now the owner of a social graph one third the size of the entire Facebook population, and arguably poses some threat to Facebook.

Is Friend Lists functionally similar to Top Friends? If so, how will Facebook promote Friend Lists within the core user experience? Does this mean that Facebook wants to compete with its most successful Platform applications?

As more information comes to light on Friend Lists, more clarity will be gained on both the privacy control and platform owner/developer dynamic questions. For now, these potential new API features should certainly raise some developer eyebrows.

[tags]facebook,platform,friendlists,competition[/tags]

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34 Responses to “Speculation: Facebook adding Friend Lists; implications for Top Friends, LinkedIn?”

  1. Facebook’s New API’s Compete With LinkedIn & Slide? says:

    [...] [via inside facebook] Link to This Post: [...]

  2. proxieslist.net says:

    [...] [via inside facebook] [...]

  3. Ashish says:

    facebook should definitely compensate application’s whose ideas they take and integrate within the main application .. otherwise it is a huge disincentive to create facebook applications for developers.

  4. Nicole Simon says:

    On the other side, it is not as if the concept of a friends list, top friends and different groups is something earth shattering new.

    Looking on it I would rather say that it took them this time to make this happen in the system. If facebook was build without this (and it seems it is) it does take a while to actually go for it and implement it deep down into the core.

    And, the T&C are quite open about it, so entering this you should know what you get yourself into.

    Also, this can be a very good test to see how features requested by the users are really _used_ by the users. I for example have the FB app installed, but only to have a look at it.

    I will though happily group my “friends”, but not rate them as top friends.

    If the application makers are clever, they need to be better than facebook and use the time to make money until they can come out with it. It has to be part of your business plan.

  5. Facebook FriendLists app - competing against Slide’s Top Friends? says:

    [...] Smith, over at Inside Facebook did a very interesting analysis of the new developments on [...]

  6. Paul from Facebump says:

    Ashish, you’ve got a point there! I can understand why they’d want to disrupt LinkedIn, but to disrupt Slide seems a little aggressive. Given they’re supposed to be synergistic.

    I all brings into question the stability of any company who bases it’s operations on F8.

    Will be interesting to see how Slide react to this.

  7. Jamie says:

    Microsoft dont compensate developers for features it implements into Windows that were available previously by 3rd parties. Same for Apple. Why should Facebook?

  8. Facebook’s “friends.getLists” and “friends.getListsMembers” - Finally | Personal Insights on Web 2.0, Blogging, and Business says:

    [...] it seems Facebook will solve the missing piece of Facebook. Though details are not public yet, Facebook has added two new api calls — “friends.getLists” and “friends.getListsMembers”. I think it means [...]

  9. Jerome Paradis says:

    I suspect it means that they are working on the basic functions for grouping friends together and apply privacy settings to these.

    For example, you could have family friends with whom you share photos and wall messages visible only to the family.

    Not all friends are the same, so I think these kind of features are really urgently needed in Facebook.

    If their plan concerns the above, as I think, it will pose no threats to the Top Friends application. Having this kind of data already available for a user’s friends in the API will open up new opportunities for developers.

    I am working for fun on a Facebook application and it is a feature I need. I prefer that Facebook brings the feature and that the data is already populated and available to the application instead of having to develop the features and add some data entry burden to the users.

  10. » LinkedIn vs Facebook (round two) | The Social Web | ZDNet.com says:

    [...] Inside Facebook reports on the discovery of a couple of new functions in Facebook Platform’s API (the set of hooks provided by Facebook for third-party developers building their own applications) which hint at additional features, which could put Facebook in much more direct competition with professional networks such as LinkedIn, as well as eat away at the unique selling point of social networks like Multiply, which emphasize user privacy and access controls for a user’s different social groups. [...]

  11. Trey Philips says:

    It should also be noted that groups.join is new, but they’ve documented it.

  12. neunetz.com » Facebook bereitet Implementierung von Freundeslisten vor says:

    [...] Wie Inside Facebook berichtet, sind erste Anzeichen einer anstehenden Implementierung dieser Funktion aufgetaucht: [...]

  13. Facebook Introducing Social Zones? says:

    [...] 2. More significant, this would mark the first time Facebook has moved to directly compete with a top Platform application. Source: Inside Facebook, “Speculation: Facebook adding Friend Lists; implications for Top Friends, Lin… [...]

  14. Facebook Signals Addition of Killer Feature - The Unofficial Facebook Blog says:

    [...] [Via] Posted in News Digg this article Save to del.icio.us Share on Facebook [...]

  15. links for 2007-08-30 « John’s musing says:

    [...] Inside Facebook » Speculation: Facebook adding Friend Lists; implications for Top Friends, LinkedIn… Great to see usability increases, interesting to see how the competitive situation with their top app provider pans out… when you have a closed platform a benign dictatorship is the best you can hope for… (tags: facebook applications friends list) [...]

  16. Second Life Loser » Blog Archive » Facebook’s New API’s Compete With LinkedIn & Slide? says:

    [...] [via inside facebook] [...]

  17. Adonomics Blog » Blog Archive » Triumph of the Nerds — Part Deux says:

    [...] that vain, it is now clear that Facebook will be adding “Friend Lists.” This new feature will allow facebook users to begin to segment family, work, school and social [...]

  18. Inside Facebook: the Facebook Book » I lust for Friend Lists, and more says:

    [...] Justin Smith’s InsideFacebook blog broke that the Facebook API may soon include the functions friends.getLists and friends.getListMembers.  These were only visible for a short time, when some internal code (yes, FB developers use the same tools as app developers) was accidentally pushed public.  Since organizing my hundreds of very different friends is an essential need for me, and I spend a chapter of my book on it, this difficult topic excites me.  I could build a Friend organizer app, but this and top friends needs to be integrated into the core of platform. Fred Stutzman muses that this could be a first step to allowing us to roll our own custom networks: for our own church, or my small unsupported company.  This would require the Lists to be public, rather than just private labels for my own grouping for friends.  For example, on IM I create my own buddy lists, but I can’t organize and publish a shared buddy list for my company.  I fervently hope it is true that FB takes Lists to that next level.  Even for private lists, an App could read and aim to semantically organize these lists for sharing among friends who have the app. Top Friends, and Slide which created the App, should release an API for it, so that any application can use that information to guide its own flow.  For example, I’d like to first offer invites to I Am Green to the Top Friends of a new user.  A new member is more likely to invite friends that they feel close to, for a serious, personal application.  I spoke with their top developers about it, and while they like the idea and acknowledge the utility, I saw some hesitation.  I suspect it is against the TOS to offer application specific information to someone who hasn’t installed the app.  Protecting yet severely limiting, and FB’s platform itself doesn’t have that limit of course. Comments a the post by top application developer Trey Philips noted that groups.join will also be added, and this one already is recognized as a valid entry in the developer wiki.  If this means we can automatically send invitations to groups, this will be extremely powerful, and demonstrates that FB will promote their platform tools heavily.  An administrator can message groups, and group activity (like adding a photo or a FB video) gets promoted on the Feed.  For I Am Green, I’ve been asking people to add themselves to various organizing and local groups, so I’m delighted.  I do notice that this ties my application more closely to the platform, by encouraging me to add functionality that only is possible on FB. [...]

  19. Jack says:

    I really hope they are working towards these new privacy settings. I’m currently using two Facebook accounts to get around these issues.

  20. “The Social Graph” Makes Facebook “Business” Friends Inevitable « PR, New Media, GTD - Lines from Lee says:

    [...] of “friendship.” It’s inevitable, and not just because of the speculation on the Inside Facebook [...]

  21. Facebook is extending APIs to compete with Linkedin « Thoughts about the future of linkedin says:

    [...] the weekend I saw one post at insidefacebook (here) talking about new APIs to stay on top and to start competing with the still [...]

  22. Fernando Aramburu says:

    A Linkedin point of view… Facebook is working really hard, not only in making its API more and more powerful each day, but also to stay on the top of social networks. And they are doing quite well!!!!

    Maybe, before Linkedin API is ready, we have some more Facebook API’s methods to have Linkedin functionality completely inside their website.

  23. Jack says:

    Justin, In your professional opinion, how long will it be until the new privacy settings are unveiled? Are we talking weeks, months, years?

  24. contentious.com - links for 2007-09-13 says:

    [...] Inside Facebook » Speculation: Facebook adding Friend Lists; implications for Top Friends, LinkedIn… “Good for everyone whose LinkedIn networks migrated to Facebook. Consequently, this could accelerate LinkedIn attrition: per-Friend-List privacy settings could substantially decrease the need of many to actively maintain their LinkedIn accounts as well.” (tags: career professional networking tools social+media competition) [...]

  25. pukimo says:

    I’m wondering why when it comes to managing your Facebook friends no one has ever mentioned this app called “Friendly Search”, I think it is one of the best app out there that allows you to search, sort and manage your friends in a visually attractive way. Surprisingly, this application barely make it above 100 active users despite being simple yet effective. In my opinion, I found it to be way better than Facebook current friends list, top friends or gridview.

  26. Trey Philips says:

    We’ve learned a little bit more on Friends Lists since this speculation, and can finally say it’s confirmed. I’ve posted a bit about the new information.

  27. Inside Facebook: the Facebook Book » Facebook’s growth - approaching #1. What’s next? says:

    [...] networks and/or organize your friends. We’ve seen public evidence that FB is planning friend lists, and the questions are only whether those will be public or [...]

  28. Sriram Krishnan™ Live » Facebook rumours for Tuesday/Wednesday’s announcement… says:

    [...] Facebook FriendsList could be announced. Facebook announced that they’ll allow users to group friends into different baskets depending on [...]

  29. Inside Facebook » Facebook Friend Lists let you manage your "friends" more effectively says:

    [...] and 2) bulk message everyone on a Friend List easily. As I speculated when hints of this feature first showed up back in August, I would expect Facebook to add privacy controls to Friend Lists as well.  This is a major [...]

  30. It’s Rishi » Too many Facebook friends? Organize them (or get a life)! says:

    [...] was rumored back in August that Facebook would be adding friend lists to the site. Many speculated about how [...]

  31. Facebook Friend Lists let you manage your “friends” more effectively says:

    [...] and 2) bulk message everyone on a Friend List easily. As I speculated when hints of this feature first showed up back in August, I would expect Facebook to add privacy controls to Friend Lists as well. This is a major [...]

  32. Unit Structures – Facebook’s next big change? says:

    [...] Alla, I’ve come across some posts discussing the introduction of “social zones” into Facebook. Justin Smith of InsideFacebook (an invaluable resource for following FB, if you ask me) covers it [...]

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  34. Facebook Signals Addition of Killer Feature - AllFacebook says:

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