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The number of differences between Facebook and Twitter may be greater than the number of similarities, but that doesn't mean that the companies haven't been watching each other.

Several years ago, of course, there were reports that Facebook and Twitter had held acquisition discussions, but those didn't pan out, and Facebook, some suggested, went on to acquire FriendFeed in an attempt to out-Twitter Twitter.

Since that time, both have grown significantly on their own, separate paths. But that doesn't mean that Facebook's interest in what Twitter offers has waned if its new Subscribe button is any indication.

In the coming days, this new feature will roll out across Facebook, making it possible for Facebook users to do two things:

  • "Hear from people, even if you're not friends".
  • "Let people hear from you, even if you're not friends".

That, in a nutshell, is what Twitter does, something that hasn't gone unnoticed in the blogosphere.

Unlike some of Facebook's privacy features, the Subscribe button is an opt-in feature. To enable it, Facebook users will need to click an Allow Subscribers checkbox on their Subscriptions Page. At that point, new posts that are Public will be shown to subscribers.

Needless to say, this is an interesting, and potentially useful feature, depending on how you use Facebook. At the same time, it raises an important question: at what point does Facebook go too far?

You can't be everything to everybody, but much of what Facebook is adding to its service makes it appear that's what the company is trying to do.

And it doesn't appear that will change anytime soon. Yesterday, The Financial Times reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is delaying the company's anticipated 2012 IPO "in order to keep employees focused on product developments rather than a pay-out".

Even if there's more to the story than that, on the subject of product development, one still has to wonder if too many new features will eventually start to cause more harm than good.

Patricio Robles

Published 15 September, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2378 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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jhaime

The beauty of Twitter is how simple it is... the new introduction in the feed and also ticker for facebook has been much welcome. The subscribe feature is interesting, but I probably won't use it. They need to work hard on keeping things clean and concise, nobody wants clutter.

almost 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Do users want to hear from people they don't know on Facebook? I thought the growing trend was to cut down on the amount of clutter in your feed. It will be interesting to see how well it is adapted.

almost 5 years ago

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Artur

This, in a nutshell, is one step closer to what Google+ is offering with circles. Yet, Google is far better with control over your "wall" "stream" or whatever you'll call it.
I hope there will be a possibility to opt-out and not be followed by anonymous people. With Facebook's current UI it's not clear what you're posting where and who sees it. Might cause only more confusion and privacy issues.

almost 5 years ago

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Jennifer lyons

I think from a marketeer perspective this will be a great addition and I will certainly be looking at using it. But I agree with Nick's point that users may not want people following them that they don't know. This looses the control users previously had in controlling what people could see about them.

almost 5 years ago

Mike Gomez

Mike Gomez, SEO Analyst at Epiphany

Honestly now, will this really be used or is it a feature for feature's sake?

I can kind of see the benefit from a business view point - follow industry leaders and grab their updates. Thing is I'm already doing this on Twitter!

In terms of the concerns of privacy, you will be able to set up whether or not the subscribe button will appear on your profile via your settings, so no control is lost.

I'll test it and may be converted. At this moment in time though, I doubt I'll use it.

Mike
@alwaysmikegomez

almost 5 years ago

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Steven Mikellides

I agree with Nick and Artur here in the sense that the subscribe button creates clutter and confusion. However, as Jennifer has said, it is a very interesting tool that marketers can utilise, however, again, I have to wonder, is this too much of a cross over with what happens on Twitter already?

Facebook have been clever since the launch of Google+ in bringing in a raft of changes to increase use-ability and security, however perhaps this is just one change we did not need, and if absolutely anyone can subscribe to your updates then surely that is, in some sense, a breach of personal security.

almost 5 years ago

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Tom Long

It became impossible for Facebook to ignore the massive success of Twitter so it is clear that in order compete and maintain their position, Facebook will try to improve their functionality. Whether or not this new button resonates with avid Facebook users is questionable.

over 3 years ago

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