Facebook is testing a new "subscribe" feature with a small percentage of users. The subscribe tool, which some are calling a "stalker button," would allow you to receive updates anytime a subscribed-to user makes a move on Facebook. You can even have those notifications sent to your cell phone, which means getting up-to-the-second updates every time that family member, friend, ex, or secretly admired acquaintance so much as posts a new photo. A number of tech bloggers are reacting less than favorably to the feature, which may or may not ultimately go Facebook-wide. Here's what they have to say.
- Facebook's Answer to Twitter AllFacebook's Nick O'Neill writes, "Facebook is in the process of testing a new feature which lets you subscribe to all the actions of a specific user. In other words, you can receive notifications anytime a specific user takes an action on Facebook. It also appears to be Facebook's answer to Twitter's follow feature. ... This could also serve as a new engagement opportunity for Pages if Facebook enabled users to subscribe to their activities as well. The result would be a fan count and a 'subscriber' count, which is the number of people who are guaranteed to get all of your updates."
- How It's Not Like Twitter TechCrunch's M.G. Siegler explains, "I thought it might be the equivalent of Twitter's 'follow' ability -- that is, a feature which would let you follow the updates of someone that you're not technically 'friends' with on Facebook. Sadly, that's not the case. Instead, this is simply a way for you to more closely follow someone you are already friends with (or fan pages), by getting alerts when they update. But that doesn't mean Facebook isn't working on the follow idea. In fact, last year, they definitely were. Facebook had a secret project last year that involved testing how best to implement a Twitter-like follow feature on Facebook, multiple sources have confirmed to us. The name of the project? Project Dance Party. But at some point, the project was scrapped."
- Answer to Content Overload Fast Company's Dan Nosowitz points out that, with most Facebook users having hundreds of friends, it's virtually impossible to follow everything your closest dozen or two friends are up to. So this allows you to curate shorter list of friends who you really want to keep track of. "What with having hundreds of friends, multiple news feeds and only so many hours in the day, you might miss out on what your ex-girlfriend is doing these days--and that will not stand!"
- Ripe for Malicious Abuse Mashable's Jolie O'Dell writes, "We at Mashable are hoping this is an opt-in (or at least an opt-out) feature. If Facebook thinks subscriptions are a useful for the majority of average users, people who might want to get special notifications for family members' or loved ones' activities, they're also potentially damaging if rolled out to jealous 'frenemies,' vindictive exes or nosy bosses."
- What If You Don't Want to Be Subscribed To? Techie Buzz's Keith Dsouza writes, "The new 'Subscribe To' feature will allow users to track certain users and find out what they are doing, however, considering the privacy problems that this feature would invoke among users. Hopefully, Facebook will not allow the world to subscribe to your updates, or allow you to entirely turn off the feature. Earlier last month, Facebook had rolled out a feature to allow users to control notifications on likes and comments, so this would just be another step forward."