Facebook Tests Stalker-Friendly "Subscribe to" Feature

Facebook SubscribeFacebook is testing a new feature that allows any user to "subscribe to" another user. What with having hundreds of friends, multiple news feeds and only so many hours in the day, you might miss out on what your ex-girlfriend is doing these days--and that will not stand!

The "subscribe to" feature gives you notifications whenever someone to whom you've subscribed takes action on Facebook, from status updates to photo uploads to wall comments. The new feature doesn't seem to extend as far as Facebook Places check-ins--Facebook says it only applies to updated statuses and new content. Here's their statement:

Yes, this feature is being tested with a small percent of users. It lets people subscribe to friends and pages to receive notifications whenever the person they’ve subscribed to updates their status or posts new content (photos, videos, links, or notes).

AllFacebook notes that while this is sort of creepy for individuals, it could be used to great (and less weird) effect with public pages (eds. note: Please stalk Fast Company on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/FastCompany). Imagine following a band, and never missing when that band sends out a Facebook message with new tour dates. You could see how business and other groups would find the feature pretty useful, especially since it distills the true fans from the casual ones who join every page.

In the wake of pretty much continuous privacy scandals, it's unclear how Facebook will make this feature seem palatable. It doesn't exactly allow anything that wasn't possible before, but it makes obsession much easier. Perhaps Facebook would implement a way for users to approve subscribers?

In any case, the feature is merely being tested now, and may or may not ever be implemented for the general public. How do you all feel? Is this a valuable new tool, or a step over the line into creepiness?

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in Brooklyn (no link for that one--you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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6 Comments

  • heyDarren

    This simply aligns itself more with the Asymmetric friending model that sites like Twitter employ... which is quite welcome to me. I get friend requests from various sources including people who know me from church (I may not *personally* know all of them), clients and friends/family of clients, as well as people who enjoy my bogging. At this point, I spend wayyyy too much time trying to figure out if I know people in real life or not - then if I add them putting them on various lists that insure I still have some privacy while I'm able to be available to these connections (that occasionally develop over time). I think a 'subscribe' feature would work just fine for me - then I can quickly click IGNORE on the 82 friend requests that are sitting in my box from people I don't know and only have 1 or 2 friends in common with.

    That's just my take. It's not any 'creepier' than being followed on twitter and I assume that it simply allows what you make public to be picked up by non-friends or promotes the activity of friends that you select on facebook.

  • Scott Clark

    The Facebook feature that I most need is some sort of alert telling me that I have forgotten to log-on to read all the wall postings that I don't care about for over a month. Or maybe a feature that make people that I have finally succumbed to their friending attempts actually send me actual worth while messages every now and then. "Ya friended me, now what do you want to talk about. We drank beer at parties back in college, so what."

  • Richard Tri Parton

    Actually this would be great for me. Although I'm not one of those people with a gazillion friends on facebook, I still have enough to drown posts from my closts friends in a deluge of updates that, on a busy day, I'm really not that bothered about. In fact quite a few of my dearest friends just don't post that often, so I hate to miss it if they do. I've moved to Cambodia from the UK which makes keeping in touch especially troublesome, and facebook has ended up being the number one way that I keep in touch with people (so much more friendly and personal than sending out frequent mail-shots... ).

  • Sean

    It sounds like an anonymous friending approach - kinda creepy, I think. Even if a non-friend would be able to see only public updates, but why would that non-friend be tracking me without being so straightforward as to send a simple friend request? I'm no celebrity, and I don't want a following of fans.

  • Morgan Barnhart

    As stated, this could be great for public pages, and should be kept that way. Though, on the other hand, if this feature were only available to your friends, then it wouldn't be such a bad thing. However, if they made it available to people that we aren't friends with, then that would be the creepy point.