Facebook has launched the option to post status updates and other content to some, rather than all, of your online friends. It’s a seemingly minor change which could solve some major issues with the way people use the site.
Until now, the only privacy settings available have been for your entire account. That means if you want somebody to be able to see your profile, they’ll see everything you post: every photo, every status update and every stupid quiz.
However, under the new system, which is currently testing with a small group of users, you’ll be able to select privacy levels for every item that you post. The most useful option will be Custom, which allows you to specify exactly which friends you want to see the item; as well as selecting them individually, you’ll be able to use your existing group lists.
One welcome use of this will be the ability to upload pictures of yourself in social settings for your personal friends without having to worry about them being seen by professional contacts. It should make things somewhat safer for people who want to post a Friday afternoon status update referring to work colleagues and managers in less than glowing terms. And with an apparent rise in older users on the site, many people will likely welcome the ability to hide their most lively content from parents and other relatives.
It’s not just about hiding embarrassing moments, though. The changes will now make it possible to post content which is only of interest to particular sectors of your social circle. For example, tech writers might want to post a link to an interesting story without clogging up the screens of people who find the subject boring. Similarly somebody reminiscing about their old school could share the comment only with former classmates.
At the other extreme of the options, users can now opt for individual posts or pictures to be viewable by absolutely anyone, even if they aren’t Facebook members. Several sources have noted that effectively allows you to use Facebook in the same way as Twitter: letting anyone who wants read your updates without having to establish a two-way relationship. The time is particularly well-timed coming just after the release of individual Facebook URLs as it means people can now use Facebook as a totally public blog, without losing the individual relationships side of the site.