Facebook’s New Subscribe Tool: Innovation or Dilution?

Today Facebook announced a new function of the site- the subscribe option. The first paragraph of this announcement focuses mainly on the ability to better sort what appears on your news feed- but the real point of the tool is not mentioned until the second paragraph. Until now- “you also couldn’t hear directly from people you’re interested in, but don’t know personally…” Basically, they are taking a cue from Twitter and allowing access to content and people beyond your circle of friends. It’s enabling more of a follow relationship, which in my opinion, is quite a different offering than a friendship.

Call me old fashioned, but I only request, or allow friends, if I feel that we’re really friends. I’m such a stickler about this that I think I’ve even gotten a bad rep around town, and especially in my high school hometown, because I simply won’t “friend” someone I haven’t talked with, or thought about, in 10 years. That, friends, is not what facebook is for. Facebook is for more intimate, two-way, conversations with people you care about. While Twitter can be two-way, and can even be “intimate” (via DM), it’s primarily used to access large amounts of information on a much more macro level. These platforms serve different purposes. And that’s why I use both. I don’t pump out one stream of content to both sites. I consider the audience and the platform and therefore, talk about family, life, friends and ME on facebook, whereas on Twitter, I largely spend my time reading and sharing less personal information, about work, culture or news.

So what is it? Is the subscribe feature just one more innovative offering from Facebook to better tailor to their users, or is it one step to what I believe is becoming a diluted marketplace? What I like about the Gowalla announcements this week is that, whether because they truly wanted to, or they financially had to, they redefined themselves based on their original purpose. They never set out to be in the “deal” or “check-in” game. They set out to be in the social experience game- and that, via travel, is what they’ve gone back to. Foursquare can own deals and check-ins and now we have something useful from Gowalla too. Isn’t it refreshing when companies focus on one thing and do it really well?

Maybe I’m overanalyzing it. I’m open to that. I’d love to hear what you think…but I am a little underwhelmed about this new offering from Twitbook. I mean, Facebook.

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