Facebook launches Subscriptions, similar to Twitter following

Facebook has finally launched a feature that is similar to Twitter's follow function. Subscribing is completely optional, but you can also use it to further tweak what you see in the News Feed.

Facebook today announced Subscriptions, an optional feature that lets you control what types of stories you get from your friends and non-friends in your News Feed. The feature will begin rolling out to everyone on Facebook today, with full roll out slated for the coming days.

Facebook claims the Subscribe button will help you decide how much you want to see (everything, the top stories, or nothing at all) as well as what kind of content (filter for photos, game stories, and so on). On the other hand, Subscriptions will let you keep up to date with people you're not friends with.

At the same time, this also lets you share your public updates with more than just friends, by adding a Subscribe button to your profile. If you don't do this, your experience on Facebook will not change and you will continue to see what you already see from your friends.

Facebook lists three uses for this new feature:

  • Choose what you see from people in your News Feed.
    • All updates: everything your friend posts.
    • Most updates: the amount you'd normally see.
    • Important updates only: just highlights, like a new job or move.

  • Hear from people, even if you're not friends.
    • Examples include journalists, artists, political figures, celebrities, and so on.
    • Click the Subscribe button on someone's website to get their public updates in your News Feed.
    • Just like with friends, you can choose how many and what types of updates you see after you've subscribed.

  • Let people hear from you, even if you're not friends
    • To share your public updates with more than just friends, you can add a Subscribe button on your profile (Subscriptions Page => Allow Subscribers).
    • Once you allow subscribers, you can decide who can comment and what notifications you get.
    • You'll also see a Subscribers tab on your profile, where you can see who subscribes to you.

In short, Facebook is emphasizing this as an optional feature. Still, even if you don't want to use the Subscribe button (second and third points), you'll likely use the filtering part of it (first point). You're already getting your friends' posts in your News Feed, and this feature now means Facebook lets you choose what types of updates you see from them.

This is quite clearly an answer to Twitter. This feature actually lets you do more than Twitter already does. That being said, while Facebook has a much larger user base than Twitter, it's not known for subscribing/following. We'll just have to wait and see whether people will want to keep using Facebook as just Facebook, or as Facebook and Twitter combined.

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