Posted by : Amitha Amarasinghe Sunday, September 18, 2011

Facebook recently ‘relaxed’ another level of user privacy on their social network by introducing the whole new ‘Subscribe’ Button on personal profiles.

Facebook Subscribe button allows you to get updates from people who are not in your friends list. You are by default get subscribed to your friends, while having the option of subscribing to non-friends status updates.

The intended usage of this new Facebook Subscribe Button is to allow people to stay in touch with public status updates from the personal profiles of celebrities, journalists and other public figures. I subscribed to Pete Cashmore’s (Mashable) updates this evening, allowing me to read all the publicly shared updates from Pete, on his personal Facebook profile. Earlier, Facebook introduced ‘Profile Migration’ for celebrities and public figures, allowing them to convert their personal Facebook profiles (with thousands of friends) into public figure pages on Facebook. This ended up being a nightmare for most public figures and celebrities who tried the migration option. I believe, this new Facebook Subscribe Button on personal profiles is another feature Facebook introduced to solve the same problem. For example, a celebrity or a public figure now can maintain their own personal Facebook profile (not a fan page) to be in touch with their real-life friends and to be in touch with their fans. All they have to do is activating the subscribe option on their personal Facebook profile for the benefit of the fans. When they update their status, they can choose whether to share it only among their friends, or to share it as a public update.

This new Facebook Subscribe feature immediately makes the fan pages for celebrities obsolete. While fan pages can still be used as a tool for companies and brands to engage with their customers, celebrities and public figures can now avoid the hassle of maintaining two profiles to stay in touch with real-life friends and fans/followers.

My natural instinct is, this is an attempt by Facebook to counter the competition from Twitter. Technically speaking, subscribing to Pete Cashmore’s public status updates on Facebook is more or less a similar thing to following @Mashable on Twitter.  Facebook’s Status update feature had been their microblogging tool for several years, but it had the limitation of exposing only to immediate friends network. People would easily allow anyone to follow them on Twitter but they are more cautious about whom they add on Facebook. With this new Facebook Subscribe button feature, they solve this problem as well.

In a nutshell, I believe this is a positive move by Facebook to retain their users from competition. However, as users you must be overly cautious hereafter about what you say on your status updates, if you are going to share them as public. Read Facebook’s official article on Subscribe Feature.

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