In Big New Product Push, Facebook Set to Launch 6.5 Million New Community Pages

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By Eric Eldon Comments

In what amounts to a big new product push for the company, Facebook is turning previously static information in user profiles into links to 6.5 million new Community Pages. It’s also further clarifying the point of Pages, dividing out official ones for businesses, celebrities and other known entities from from the “community” ones.

These move will help Facebook more clearly identify what users care about — and help it achieve higher search engine results for Community Pages on any topic imaginable.

The company has also renamed how users interact with Pages, borrowing the term “Like” from the action of giving a news feed item a thumbs-up. As has previously leaked out, now users will “Like” a Page to become a fan of it; this is a conceptually different use of the term than before, and we’ll see how users take to it.

Facebook’s new conceptual term for all these Pages, as well as your friends lists, relationship status and other social information, is “Connections.” It has also made a number of corresponding privacy changes on this front, which we’ll get into once we explain the product changes.

The Community Page Push

Community Pages are intended to capture public-facing topics, concepts, themes and anything else that doesn’t fit either as something “official” or as a narrowly-focused Group. Examples can be anything from geographic locations to types of cuisine to whatever else you can imagine. Many unofficial Pages are being converted into Community Pages, with one key difference being that Community Pages don’t have owners if they get big enough. This also means they don’t get out into the news feed.

Right now, many Community Pages appear to include a note saying “Our goal is to make this Community Page the best collection of shared knowledge on this topic. If you have a passion for Corvallis, Oregon, sign up and we’ll let you know when we’re ready for your help.” But if you click “sign up”, you see another note that says “Thank you for wanting to improve this Community Page. We’ll let you know when we’re ready for your suggestions.” It’s not clear what Facebook will add here that might allow people to curate the content, although this appears likely.

The new Pages started going live on April 1, but the company didn’t reveal much about it then. Now we know more. Facebook has both designated some existing Pages as new “Community Pages” and it has also created 6.5 million on its own, it tells us. These new Pages include a live stream of all recent relevant Facebook information from your friends — as well as public status updates — in addition to relevant information about the Page as drawn from Wikipedia. There are a few other bells and whistles here; pages about locations, for example, often include maps.

Facebook is now prompting users to edit their profile information to link either to official Pages or to Community Pages.

Starting now, Facebook users who go to their profile pages will see a popup window that says “Link your profile to these [X number of] pages?” The pages you’ll see, judging by our test, include home town, current location, education, interests, and other items you’ve previously designated. You can select which of these pages will be shown publicly to people who aren’t your Facebook friends or aren’t logged in when they look for you.

Note that if you don’t feel like dealing with any of the changes now, you can choose to defer for 24 hours (but not longer) or “Choose Pages Individually.” The latter option, as you’d assume, lets you decide which information will be linked or not.

Once you’re done with this initial selection, you’ll see be asked to edit which other other information on your main profile pages will be linked. You’re specifically asked to confirm your location information, for example — links to Community Pages that Facebook has created for cities you’ve designated.

You can manually re-sort each item that appears in your interests, activities and other categories when you’re profile edit mode. So you can decide which musician to put first, for example. Facebook lets you hide all Pages from being immediately visible on your profile, but this is for aesthetics as other users can still view them by clicking “show more” on a profile.

Also, if you see that you have a lot of Pages that Facebook hasn’t categorized already, you’ll need to add them manually or manually “unlike” (or remove from being a fan) them in order to get rid of them. You can’t click to edit then en masse like you can pre-categorized pages.

Facebook has introduced hovercards here to make profiles a little more interesting: if you mouse over a linked item in a profile, you’ll see a box pop up showing a little more information about the item as well as the option to “like” (aka “become a fan”) of it.

Privacy Changes

On that note, Facebook has also remodeled its privacy section so that users can choose to hide friends lists and other important profile details from friends, and other granular options. It has broken out all potentially private social data out from personal information. The former is in a new part of the privacy settings page, called “Friends, Tags and Connections.” The latter is renamed “Personal Information and Posts.”

Facebook previously reconfigured this section in December, but tells us today that ” we got lots of user feedback that people want more control.” The December changes confused many, and sparked a user outcry, as well as close examination from the US Federal Trade Commission, other governmental organizations around the world, and privacy groups.

Now, users can provide greater limits on a number of areas. Most prominently, they can hide lists of friends from their Facebook friends. “We hadn’t anticipated that users would want to hide their lists of friends from their own friends,” Facebook says, but this has continued to be a top requested feature.

Facebook also reminds users throughout its Community Pages launch that these “Connections” are public. Even if you hide which Pages you “like” from your friends, the Pages themselves are public, and so publicly display all users who “like” the Page.

Conclusion: A Clever Move by Facebook

Facebook’s move here is very clever. On an individual level, every Facebook user now has a more visceral experience to non-commercial Community Pages on the site. These pages could serve as new hubs for sharing information, that no one ever thought to create before.

All existing Pages, meanwhile, could get big new boosts to their “like” counts — the transition tool is basically asking users to add a good many by default that were previously just listed as static text in user profiles. The company tells us that it’s not clearly dividing out which Pages are Official versus Community in the transition tool, so it’s quite likely that if you’re not a fan of your favorite musician on Facebook already, then you’re about to be once you make these changes to your profile.

Since links from profiles to Pages are public, this essentially means many more links between Facebook Pages for search engines to recognize per person. We expect all Pages to appear even higher within search results because of this change.

And, Facebook hasn’t just used the 3 million active Pages to plug in to profiles, but added more than twice that number. That means 6.5 million topical Pages that are now even more likely to hit at or near the top of search results. This is probably not what Google wants to see happen; indeed, its apparently unsuccessful Knol community page service was intended to do something similar.

We expect Facebook to continue tying Pages to everything it can. There are all sorts of rumors about the company’s pending launch of location-based services. We expect Pages about locations to be used here. Although we’re speculating, it’s easy to imagine a way to link some sort of check in at a location with a Page for that location.