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Facebook Subscribe Changes Personal Profile Rules

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Once again, Facebook has changed the rules of personal interaction on the network. Members can now choose to enable a "Subscribe" button that allows people who are not necessarily Facebook "friends" to follow their posts.

The move was interpreted in some quarters as a counter to Google+, which like Twitter uses a "follow" model that lets members subscribe to other member's posts without requiring a reciprocal agreement between friends or connections. However, AllFacebook reported a year ago that Facebook was testing a subscribe to user profile feature. Facebook announced the capability along with some new controls for filtering feeds from friends, as well as non-friends whose posts you've subscribed to. For example, it is making it easier for you to specify you would like to see someone's posts but not updates related to the games they play on Facebook. This builds on a set of enhanced sharing and privacy controls Facebook introduced in August.

Facebook users must opt in to the program, specifying that they want to allow people who aren't friends to view their public posts, and Facebook now makes it easier to tag posts as public or for friends only.

Most of the reaction to the new feature has been positive. The Next Web's Matt Brian enthused that this feature set will "eliminate your desire to use any other social network." Apparently, he didn't get the memo that all that hype is supposed to be reserved for Google+ now.

The choice of allowing subscriptions eliminates one of the distinctions between a Facebook personal profile and a Facebook "page"--a profile for a business, organization, or celebrity--particularly for a celebrity, consultant, or anyone else with a personal brand, rather than a corporate one. Previously, one of the main reason prominent people established Facebook pages was that the number of friends an individual was allowed was limited to 5,000. Besides, individually approving friend requests can easily become a burden for people with a large following. Because subscribers aren't counted the same as friends, and don't have to be individually approved, that reason for establishing a page is going away.

On the other hand, a personal profile with subscriptions enabled doesn't give you other features of a Facebook page, such as the option of adding custom page tabs, but for many that may not be an issue. Prominent digerati such as Robert Scoble and developer/author Jesse Stay switched on their subscribe buttons immediately.

Personally, because of the way I run my online life, I prefer to keep my professional identity on Facebook separate. But for many people, having one profile for both personal and professional connections will be a good option.

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