Opinion Hub
The Subscribe Button: Facebook’s Poor Attempt To Be Twitter
September 14, 2011 01:46 PM

Did you hear the news? Facebook is launching a new Subscribe button for profiles, but it actually has a different functionality depending the type of friendship. If you are friends with a person, using the Subscribe button allows controlling just how much you see of them in your News Feed. If you are not friends with a person, subscribing is essentially a “Follow” button from Twitter. You can only see their public posts and they can only see yours. Fortunately, this is an opt-in feature unlike many of the other Facebook announcements.


Yeah. That is because this is Facebook’s latest attempt to not be Facebook. The social network has a habit of trying to fix things that are not broken (and not fixing things that are), and the move to add a Subscribe button to profiles is no exception.

The reason for this spontaneous announcement is not only to stay ahead of Twitter’s growth, but also the latest entry into the social network arena: Google+. Both use different strategies compared to Facebook for connecting. On Facebook, being “friends” with someone equates to a mutual connection. On Twitter and Google+, anyone can follow someone’s updates and they do not necessarily have to see yours. That is their decision.

Not only is Facebook completely ruining what makes the website unique, but they are doing so in all the wrong ways. Normally when you follow someone on Twitter, you click “Follow” and the process is over. You are following that person and you can now move along with your day.

On Facebook, this is not what happens. Once you click Subscribe, you have the option to see all updates, most updates, or only the important ones. Underneath that, you can choose the specific types of stories you care about: Life Events, Status Updates, Photos and Videos, or Games. One might assume Life Events covers everything, keeping in mind the person you follow is in fact living. Alas, apparently it does not.

And lets say I subscribe to someone who then chooses to subscribe to my updates as well, why not just add each other as friends? The only difference between being mutual subscribers and friends is subscribers only see public updates, not all updates. But I do not know many people who choose to only post a few statuses as public. Most decide to make their entire profile public or restrict it to just friends. And making content on profiles public just eliminates the need for Pages.

The whole thing is just redundant and unnecessary. I have not seen any complaints from people wishing Facebook had a Follow button. And those that do wish for such a feature just sign up for Twitter. This system works. But now that the Palo Alto-based social network is jumping in, I am almost certain users are going to get confused rather quickly. I already am.

Companies like Twitter and Apple have long known that placing limitations on products or services are necessary for a great user experience. This is the reason for the 140-character limit on Twitter and the App Store approval process on iOS. Adding too many similar features and options leads straight to chaos. Facebook can not seem to grasp that concept.

Link: Facebook Subscriptions

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