NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Facebook is making another major change, but this time people might actually be happy about it.
A couple months after Google rolled out its social network Google+, with more intuitive privacy controls, Facebook seems to have gotten the message that its current regime is unsatisfactory to a lot of users. The company announced Tuesday the rollout of new features during the next few days that make it easier to control who sees the content you share on your profile and Facebook wall.
Rather than making users visit the privacy settings page and adjust a series of preferences, the new system will put drop-down menus next to each item on your profile to let you determine who gets to see it. That means when you go to edit your profile, you can easily make it so that everyone can see your employment information, for instance, while keeping your phone number and certain photo albums restricted to more limited circles – er, groups of people. That mimics one of the more popular features of Google+, which likewise integrates privacy preferences into the editing process.
Facebook also makes it a little more intuitive to adjust the privacy settings of individual posts. Whereas before, users would set a default preference and then adjust it for individual posts by clicking the small “lock” icon, now there will be a drop-down menu right next to the “share” button that allows them to adjust who sees the post. It seems like a small change, but it represents an acknowledgement by Facebook that part of the sharing process involves deciding whom you want to share individual pieces of content with. In other words, it has realized what Google has known from the start when it launched Google+.
In addition to making it easier to adjust privacy settings on posts and profile items, Facebook will finally give users the ability to approve or reject photo tags before they become active and will also allow one to change the privacy settings of a post after submitting it, both features long sought by users that contribute to the sense that Facebook is finally taking privacy seriously.
While it’s possible that these changes have been in the pipeline for a while now, it’s hard to believe that the emergence of Google+ and its rapid growth weren’t a factor in the overhaul. Facebook was criticized for its defensive response to the new competitor, which apparently involved blocking people from using Facebook to invite their friends to join Google+. Now it seems to be taking a different tack, acknowledging that its first legitimate competitor does indeed do some things better and adjusting accordingly.
That willingness to change may be bad news for Google, though; while its user base has indeed skyrocketed, its traffic has experienced a decline and it’s starting to look like only a small portion of users actually post to the service on a regular basis. If Facebook is really getting it together on the privacy front, it takes away one of Google’s big advantages over Facebook.
As such, Google+ may eventually be remembered not as the social network that replaced Facebook, but as the upstart competitor that made Facebook better.
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