Facebook has launched a Subscribe button that lets you follow the public updates of users. It doesn’t matter if they’re your friends or not.
Beginning on Wednesday users will start to see a “Subscribe” button next to the “Message” and “Poke” buttons on Facebook profiles. Clearly Facebook’s attempt at asynchronous following like Google+ and Twitter the button will allow you to follow the content others are posting without actually becoming their “Friend”.
This button works a bit differently based on whether you’re looking at a friend’s profile. If you subscribe to the profile of somebody who is not your friend, you’ll get access to public status updates in your Feed. You’ll be able to control what type of updates that you’ll see; status updates, game updates, photos, etc.
If the user is your friend, subscribing let’s you control how much of you’re friends content flows through your stream. If you want to see every single post simply set the Subscribe button to show “All Updates” in your News Feed. Alternatively, you can select the “Only Important” option and with some behind the scenes magic Facebook will only show that info in your stream if they start being engaged with you.
The Subscribe feature is totally optional — you can choose not to subscribe to anybody, and you can choose to turn off the Subscribe button on your profile if you don’t want to gain any subscribers.
Very much like Twitter and Google+ your profile will display the total number of people subscribing to your public posts and the number of people you’re following. In an odd decision, considering the privacy issues Facebook has come up against recently, in the future when someone sends you a friend request they will automatically become a subscriber to your public posts… unless you completely disable the Subscribe button.
The latest changes to Facebook are clearly a response to Google’s new social platform Google+, which offers a similar set of features. However, Facebook has always been a place for “friends”, the new Subscribe button changes that perception by encouraging public posts and gaining followers. It could be a smart move for Facebook, but it might also fundamentally change the way users share or use the service.