Facebook Groups are about to become a lot easier to find. The social network has begun piloting a new Groups Discover tool, which makes it easier for users to find new Groups to join, based on their interests. The new feature is rolling out on iOS and Android in the U.S.
In the new Groups Discover section, users can browse both public and closed Groups by category. Private Group admins can choose whether or not their Group’s existence appears in the new Discover tool. Users can browse groups by category, or can look for groups their friends belong to or for groups in their local geographic area.
The new discovery function can be found under Facebook’s “More” tab on mobile devices, and currently offers a little over 25 categories, including parenting (the most popular Groups category on Facebook).
The only thing surprising about the new Discovery tool is how long it took Facebook to offer it. Over a billion people use tens of millions of active Groups every month for a variety of reasons–everything from planning weddings and trips with friends, to sharing childrearing tips, to engaging in political activism or debate, to offering support in the aftermath of traumatic events, like natural disasters or terrorist attacks. The average Groups user is in about 12 Groups.
Indeed, it’s a very popular feature of Facebook, one that has truly created some amazing connections between people. In Thailand, Groups are used to facilitate spontaneous meetups. More than a quarter of Iceland’s population belongs to the “Good Sister” Facebook Group, which is dedicated to “celebrating each other.” In my own experience, Groups have connected me with people who have given me great advice about journalism.
Of course, Facebook occasionally finds itself in the news over the more nefarious ways in which people sometimes use the platform. The network does work to shut down illegal Groups behavior, so don’t expect a “Drug Dealing” category to appear in the Groups Discover tool anytime soon.