Right now, Facebook‘s Pages are a kind of limited-use group, usually for branding purposes–they’ll let you join groups focusing on celebrities, musicians, and businesses, but that’s about it. That’s about to change: Pages are set to invade your Facebook existence.
Starting Monday, there will be two types of Pages: Official and Community. Official Pages are the old type, set up by one person or organization. Community Pages will spring up organically, creating groups based on interests (including location, like hometown, and other information like education) shared by lots of people. The San Francisco Giants Page will be official; the baseball Page will be Community. Facebook has 6.5 million Community Pages set up already, just based on the items people list in their profiles.
But why bother spending time on these new Community Pages? Well, they’ll have lots of information you might want to know–Wikipedia entries, posts from other Facebook users, news, that kind of thing. In the future they might tie in with location-based information, whenever Facebook decides to add it, which could be nice for finding others in your area with similar interests. Oddly, though, you won’t be able to write on the wall of these Community Pages–they can only be edited by experts. You can apply to be an expert, but it’s still unclear how they’ll be chosen and when that will happen. So they’re a bit static now, but no more than the normal Official Pages.
Instead of the old “Become a Fan” button, you’ll join these Pages with “Like” buttons, just like the rest of the network.
There are two controversial elements of this change, and they’re kind of the refrain of all Facebook-related problems: annoyance and privacy. Starting Monday, if you’ve got 30 interests and affiliations listed on your profile, you’ll be presented with 15 pop-ups telling you to join 15 Pages. You can pick and choose which Pages will be linked individually, but if you’ve got a long, curated Facebook profile, Monday is going to be a pain in the ass for you. Oh, and you’re stuck with using accepted, linked Pages for most of your profile, including education and interests.
Opt-in to new connections: When you next visit your profile page
on Facebook, you’ll see a box appear that recommends Pages based on the
interests and affiliations you’d previously added to your profile. You
can then either connect to all these Pages—by clicking “Link All to My
Profile”—or choose specific Pages. You can opt to only connect to some
of those Pages by going to “Choose Pages Individually” and checking or
unchecking specific Pages. Once you make your choice, any text you’d
previously had for the current city, hometown, education, and work, and
likes and interests sections of your profile will be replaced by links
to these Pages. If you would still like to express yourself with
free-form text, you can still use the “Bio” section of your profile.
You also can also use features and applications like Notes, status
updates or Photos to share more about yourself.
For people like me who would rather have a jokey profile than seriously list interests and favorite movies, this is a real problem. I don’t want to be forced to either join a group promoting Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3D or remove it from my profile; I like it the way it is, a plaintext silly movie title. Community Pages are forcing us to join groups, and not everyone wants to do that.
You can choose how public you want your membership in these Pages to be–they can be publicly viewable, viewable to friends, or totally hidden. Of course, even if you opt for the “totally hidden” choice, your name will still appear in the list of members in any Page to which you’ve linked. So you’ve got two choices with any interest or affiliation in your profile: You can join the Page, which has varying levels of visibility but is still public, or you can delete that item from your profile.
Community Pages are great for those who love connecting with others, forging new online relationships and joining clubs. For those who mostly use Facebook as a repository of email addresses and birthdays, this is going to be a real pain. But the possibilities are pretty striking, even in this early (Facebook calls it “beta”) stage–and it’ll definitely take the sting out of competitors like Ning, which have focused on this kind of group-building. We’ll have to see what they plan to do with this new structure.