Mark Zuckerberg and his team launched the new Facebook Groups today. He mentioned that not more than 5% users used the existing friend list features to share information between different groups of their friends. These lists are private to each user and other users can’t see these lists. I am part of that 5% and have almost all my friends put into one or more than one bucket. Although, I rarely use the lists to target my status messages or other content that I share.
The idea behind Groups is to make the friend lists more of public and add the virality to it so that a lot more people be part of these groups even if not more than 5% people create them. They gave a great example about FB photos. Only a few % of users actually upload the pictures, but a lot more are tagged. This is a great analogy, but I don’t think comparing photo tagging with groups is an apples to apples comparison.
First problem I see with the groups as launched is, that even though with virality a lot of people will be part of the groups but they won’t actually use them. I don’t really see my friends using the groups to communicate with the group members. Maybe I am making this claim based on my observations so far and things might change with UI changes and eventual groups adoption. But at this time, I don’t think the groups will be adopted to communicate or shared certain things by most of my friends.
Within 30 minutes of using the product, I have noticed another flaw behind the groups philosophy. Due to the social nature of the groups, I see friends getting offended on why they are not part of certain groups or why some other people are not part of certain groups. If I create a group called “Close Friends” and add a few friends in that, what will others think about it? Yes, I can make the group “secret” so that no one else other than the members can see it. However, the friends in that “Close Friends” group may judge me for not adding those other people who they think are close friends too. This was not a problem with the Friends List, I could label them whatever I liked without thinking about how others will perceive it.Another problem that I noticed within a few minutes of using the product is that a lot of people are going to have the same names for the groups. This is more of a UI problem and can be resolved with UI enhancements. Yes, I am aware I can change the icon for the group and even upload a profile image for the group, but that is an added step. With all the extended family I have on Facebook I might eventually be part of 4-5 “Family” groups.
I would like to see a product that algorithmically connected me with friends based on a ton of data that Facebook has about me and my actions. It is not an easy task, but I believe it is possible and I look forward to a startup taking a jab at it eventually.