Facebook ‘Subscribe’ Button: Taking on Twitter?


Facebook launched its new "Subscribe" button, so users can streamline their news feed and communicate with others on Facebook without being friends. From the Facebook blog:

You're already getting your friends' posts in News Feed. With the Subscribe button, you can choose how much you see from them:

  • 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

Sound familiar? Probably because it's a lot like Twitter, where people sign up to be followers to benefit from pearls of wisdom from the likes of comedian Stephen Colbert, reality star Snooki or actor Wil Wheaton. And while they can communicate to you, even with a direct reply, those people don't necessarily have to follow you.

In fact, the new feature will kind of turn one's account to a Fan Page, if he or she chooses to let people subscribe to their account. If so, then a user can choose some posts to be "Public" or "Friends" -- Facebook's new Google+-like "smart list" feature it launched earlier this week.

GigaOm calls this moving from Facebook's symmetrical model where everyone agrees to be friendly, to an asymmetrical one like Twitter -- where you can "follow anyone regardless of whether they approve," and one person can have thousands of followers but follow only three people.

Is this a threat to Twitter? We don't think so because Twitter has established itself as a real-time news feed. It was Twitter, not Facebook, that was found to be ideal for breaking news in war-torn countries and areas hit by earthquakes or other natural disasters. This is not to say that Facebook couldn't create a real-time information network -- we would welcome the competition and innovation, especially since Twitter seems to have zero interest in customer service. Don't believe us? Just see how crappy TweetDeck has become now that Twitter bought it. Scheduled tweet? Now it's just a figment of your imagination.

Facebook will continue to be a way to connect with far-flung friends but it won't win over any Twitter followers on this update.

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