Facebook testing automatically grouping friends into Smart Lists

Facebook is testing a new Smart Lists feature in addition to its existing Friend Lists feature. Both can be used to share content with just specific friends and/or to filter the News Feed with content from just specific friends.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

Update: the feature is now live. Facebook revamps Friend Lists with intelligent grouping.

Facebook recently started testing out Smart Lists, in addition to Friend Lists, with select users on the social network. Smart Lists, as the name implies, are intelligently-grouped lists of your Facebook friends.

Website developer Nick Starr noticed the new feature and posted about it on his Twitter account for the blogosphere to pick up (Mashable has more screenshots):

@benparr @parislemon @grg Facebook adding smart friend lists... pic.twitter.com/dvoDgzQ

Here are the official details from the screenshots that describe what Facebook has been working on.

What's a Friend List?

  • A quick way to organize friends so you can control what you see in your News Feed and post updates for specific people.
    • Close Friends are trusted friends you want to hear from frequently.
    • Acquaintances are people you want to see less of in News Feed.
    • Restricted is a list of friends you never want to share with.

Facebook has had the Friend Lists feature for a long time, but few users actually know about it, and even fewer use it. Clearly the social networking giant is figuring out a way to fix the problem.

Smart Lists

  • You also have smart lists that update themselves for coworkers, classmates, and local friends. You can add or remove anyone to these lists at any time.
    • (Coworker icon) This will be a list of friends who work with you.
    • (Classmate icon) This will be a list of friends who attend school with you.
    • (Local icon) This will be a list of people who live within 50 miles of your current city.

These lists appear to have two major uses. The first is for sharing content with: you can choose a list you created manually or one that was created for you from the drop-down menu in the bottom right of the "What's on your mind?" status box. The second is for the News Feed: you will be able to filter your News Feed to only display content from one (or more?) of your friend lists.

These changes are clearly an answer to Google+ Circles. Two months ago, four Facebook engineers built Circle Hack, which lets you build friend lists on Facebook exactly how you build Circles on Google+. Here's what I wrote in my coverage:

Although Circle Hack is not an official Facebook product, it does show that Facebook employees care about fixing certain aspects of the social network. The new website is a pretty good imitation of the Google+ Circles feature. I hope that Google+ and Circle Hack inspire Facebook to fix how Lists are created on the social network.

Facebook is aware of what Google+ is good at. Thankfully, the company is eager to not only match what Google's social network offers, but to do better. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: competition is a good thing.

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