Facebook has just announced a new feature that will allow you to follow new users from within the social network’s apps. The way it works is simple: You happen to be in an app (maybe a quiz?) and come across a person whose activities you’d like to subscribe to – just press the follow button. From then on, that person’s updates for that app start showing up in your news feed.
But here’s the interesting part: Like most of the features released by Facebook, the “App Follow” is double-edged, and may not appeal to everyone. Here are the major things good and bad about this.
- Engagement: Newer ways of engagement are always welcome, and Facebook already has a huge database to build on. Interest-based feeds from apps will make sure that you receive updates you specifically asked for (connected to that app only, which interests you), actually improving the quality of content on your feed.
- Developers gain: For app developers and publishers, this is surely welcome news. The app-based feed will work like a recall factor and keep users coming back to that app. If they find the content very useful, they might even consider buying the app. Granted paid apps are not yet part of the ecosystem, but Facebook is working on it!
- Users gain: The users also gain from this feature, because they are not bombarded with a flurry of updates like when they subscribe to a person’s profile or make friends with them. Getting updates from a specific app, about a specific person, allows you to be more specific and hence, relevant.
- Revenue: More content means only one thing – Facebook gets more real estate to push ads, which is ultimately what’s driving the whole network. This will increase revenue and provide a firmer hold on the ad network.
- Privacy: You may love to follow someone, but they may not want to be followed. That is what makes me speculate that a good number of developers will not want to integrate app follow into their apps. Moreover, a person within an app can choose not to be followed.
- More chaos: Can’t do much about this, but one has to admit that the Facebook timeline is becoming one big mess of a non-ending stream of content updates, most of them pointless. While app follow will produce better content (at least I hope so!), the overall strain on your time line will increase.
- More ads: Just how much more ads do we want on Facebook? If you ask me, not too many! But clearly, the app follow feature is a disguised opportunity to publish more content and attach more and more ads to it, based on users’ preferences. It’s likely going to put off people.
Here’s how it looks integrated in one app:
Click one of those buttons and you’ll be alerted on Facebook that you’re following someone via your Timeline’s recent activity.
…and your notifications
Then you’ll start seeing posts like these in your Ticker or news feed
Developers who are already publishing stories back to Facebook via Open Graph about who you follow, like Quora for example, have 90 days to either stop publishing their custom “follow” actions and migrate to this new official one, or stop publishing those kinds of stories.
So there we have it, the bitter and sweet taste of Facebook’s latest tweak. What are your view about this? Let me know in the comments!