At a press event today (Techmeme), Facebook unveiled new privacy controls for the so-called social utility, along with an official Instant Messaging application.
The improved privacy settings enable users to have much greater control over who in their social network can view specific content. One group of "friends" can be given access to certain content, a photo gallery for example, while another group will be restricted. Another setting allows more granular control, whereby profile information is visible to second and third-degree contacts rather than the site's members as a whole (reports news.com), not dissimilar to the way in which LinkedIn or Multiply works.
Back in August of last year, I wrote that were Facebook to add better privacy controls it could impact on LinkedIn's appeal as a social network for professionals:
All that is required to negate much of the need to ever log-in to LinkedIn again is the option to group Facebook “friends” into defined categories, with different levels of access and some specific professional networking features.
If Facebook does add functionality to make it easy for users to add a degree of separation between their social and professional networks, as well as a public-facing ‘resume’ type page (which can be viewed without needing to be logged-in), then I find it hard to see how LinkedIn etc. will stay relevant.
With today's announcement, Facebook has at last ticked the first box.
Dubbed 'Facebook Chat' and to be rolled out in the next few weeks, Facebook is adding IM functionality to the social networking site. As Larry Dignan notes, the new IM offering has the potential to be disruptive and is designed to get users to spend more time on the site socializing in realtime. However, Facebook won't, initially at least, be offering an API for Facebook Chat, meaning that external IM clients and services won't be able to add Facebook Chat support. Having said that, Jabber interoperability is under consideration.