Facebook Updates Friend List Interface Again, Hoping to Increase Usage

In a small update that might be hinting at more changes to come, Facebook has altered how users select friends to add to their friends lists. Previously, when you approved a friend request, the interface included an option to add a friend to one or more lists. Now, you just see two buttons next to each potential friend’s name: Confirm or Ignore. If you click Confirm, you’ll then see the option to add them to lists. Click on it, and a window will appear showing your existing friend lists and asking you to toggle the ones you want your new friend to be listed under.

The previous list-adding interface was easy to miss. It appeared next to the other buttons, and if you confirmed, it simply disappeared. Now, Facebook has moved the friend lists choice menu directly into the approval process, in a way that is harder to ignore. Why? Because it wants people to use the feature more than they have been.

Facebook has tried to make itself more relevant to people’s lives at home, in the workplace and with friends from all walks of life. Meanwhile, it has encouraged people to share intimate details about themselves, like photos, interests and locations. The concepts naturally conflict, with the classic example being party photos — you don’t want your mom or your boss to see them, but you do want to share them with your friends.

To solve this problem, Facebook introduced friend lists years ago. However, it has had trouble getting the feature used much, we have heard, and observed anecdotally. In the latest set of redesigns, the company has made it increasingly difficult to do anything with lists. At this point, there is not even a clear way to publish certain content to just some of these lists. Although you can start typing in the names of these lists and enter them into the custom publisher that way, there is no wording indicating that this is possible. The main way to get value out of the lists, that Facebook currently makes obvious, is to read what people in the lists are sharing — navigate to the lists in the submenu of the home page left-hand navigation column, and view content from friends.

Competitors from startups to Google have been eyeing Facebook’s increasingly fused social graph, and trying to create more private alternatives. A recent presentation from a Google interface researcher working on social features highlighted this exact issue. While Google and other companies have not yet been able to chip away at Facebook’s social networking dominance, they see Facebook’s generic approach to friends as a weakness — and this change is likely a part of Facebook’s strategy to counteract that.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see friend lists make a bigger comeback across Facebook features, including in a home page redesign that’s rumored to be coming later this year.

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8 Responses to “Facebook Updates Friend List Interface Again, Hoping to Increase Usage”

  1. AJ says:

    In response to “At this point, there is not even a way to publish certain content to just some of these lists” – it’s extremely easy to post certain updates/pics/links to specific lists or people, and also have specific lists or people not be able to view them!

  2. Eric Eldon says:

    AJ, I could have been more specific in that particular sentence, but Facebook hid the option to publish updates to manually-created lists. You can still do it, but there is no explanation that it is possible within the custom publisher interface. At least that’s what I and others I checked with are seeing. If you’re seeing otherwise, please send me a screenshot at eric (at) insidenetwork (dot) com

  3. Cori says:

    So WHEN oh WHEN will the 5,000-friend limit just get lifted already? Why penalize people who are superusers? That’s the change we are dreaming of….

  4. ahmed says:

    so if i want to remove a list what i do ???

  5. Nicole Simon says:

    I would LOVE to use the listing feature. Business is dying to use this properly, for example to cater news to the audience it belongs to. In fact, I also would like to not only tell my clients how to use it but make instructions for friends as well.

    But as a matter of fact, the easiest way for Facebook to get others to use this would be to finally offer an easy way of editing and maintaining this – but not only on facebook. This is the number one reason I hear and complain about myself: Why do I have to do this over and over again?

    I have my friends sorted, as well as my biz contacts. i am not going to spend hours of my time updating this on Facebook one by one too, with point and click.

    Hei, I even would add the Facebook name to my local system, if only I can give a list of name by comma separated or whatever to add friends to lists. But this way? It is much easier for me – personal usage and professional – to do this through other ways and means.

  6. SearchCap: The Day In Search, August 25, 2010 says:

    [...] Facebook Updates Friend List Interface Again, Hoping to Increase Usage, Inside Facebook [...]

  7. GianPaJ says:

    It would be usefull to see all your friends or facebook pages which are not in a list! And see which ones are in 2 or more specific lists. Like City, College, CoWorkers, etc

  8. FACEBOOK naujienos ir patarimai #55 | Komunikacija FACEBOOK'e says:

    [...] Atnaujinta draugų sąrašų (list) funkcija, o Facebook‘as tikisi, kad po pakeitimų išaugs jo naudojimasis. [...]

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