Facebook Groups Gets Facelift

Facebook is rolling out a new design for Groups aimed at making it easier for members to communicate and share their activities.

The new layout, which more closely resembles Facebook Pages, will make Groups more prominent by integrating messages from Groups into users’ main News Feed. Previously, Group activities only appeared on the member site.

“To ensure that you get the most interesting and relevant content from groups you’ve joined, you only will see stories when one of your friends posts within a group rather than when all members post,” Knot Pipatsrisawat, a software engineer intern at Facebook, said in a post on the company’s blog.

“For example, you now will see a story when your friend uploads photos from a recent party at your high school alumni group or when one of your friends posts a message on the Wall of your pick-up soccer group saying that there is a special game this week,” Pipatsrisawat wrote.

Part of the updated design is the addition of a Wall for messages that summarizes all the recent activities of people within the group. Also debuting is a new Publisher feature, which enables members to share their content.

Right now, the new format is being tested with a small number of users, but the revamped design will be rolled out site-wide in “coming days,” according to Pipatsrisawat.

Facebook hopes the changes will make interacting with Groups easier as users will be able to follow the links to the content directly from their home page News Feeds and will be able to comments on those stories directly from their home page.

The feature won’t change any of the functionality of either Groups or Facebook Pages, however.

“While Groups and Pages now look the same, they still serve different purposes. Groups are for fostering member-to-member collaboration, while Pages remain the best way to broadcast messages to your fans if you are a business, organization, public figure or other entity,” Pipatsrisawat wrote.

Some industry observers have speculated that Facebook may have additional plans for Groups beyond simply making them more accessible. For one thing, bloggers have suggested that the redesign sets the stage for the social networking site to open up Groups to developers as a potential way to generate revenue.

“This new groups design … make[s] one wonder whether or not groups will become a platform for applications. With over 45 million groups, it would only make sense to grant developers access to them,” All Facebook’s Nick O’Neill wrote in a blog post.

So far, Facebook has given little indication it’s planning such an expansion.

“Currently, Groups are not open for developers to build applications for them, but it’s something we might consider for the future,” a company spokesperson told InternetNews.com.

Groups hot at Twitter, too

As Facebook works to fold relevant messages from Groups into the main news feed, Twitter is planning to introduce its own group-like feature, called Lists. The feature is expected to become available within the next few weeks.

Those moves come as recent data show that growth at Twitter may be cooling off, while Facebook continues its surge.

For Twitter, Lists aim to help users corral the vast number of users and tweets they follow.

“The idea is to allow people to curate lists of Twitter accounts. For example, you could create a list of the funniest Twitter accounts of all time, athletes, local businesses, friends, or any compilation that makes sense,” Twitter’s Nick Kallen, Lists project leader, wrote in a post on the company’s blog.

Kallen said Lists are public by default — but can be made private — and the lists users create are linked from their profile.

“Other Twitter users can then subscribe to your lists. This means lists have the potential to be an important new discovery mechanism for great tweets and accounts,” Kallen said. “We started working on this feature because of the frequent requests we received from people who were looking for a better way to organize information on Twitter.”

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