Facebook Takes Aim at Twitter: New Publisher Makes Public Status Updates Easy

Facebook has just announced that it’s now testing a new version of the “publisher” that allows users to choose who can see their status updates and posts.  The most interesting part? The first option is “everyone.”

In other words, Facebook is making it easy for users to post status updates that are visible not just to their Facebook friends – but for the entire world (and Google) to see. Facebook has said for a long time that it’s planned to give users more granular privacy controls over status updates, but Facebook has never promoted making status updates publicly visible this heavily before – though the company did take a step back in March to allow users to share some content on their profiles with everyone.

By contrast, Twitter’s public nature has made the site increasingly popular amongst users interested in broadcasting their messages as widely as possible or unconcerned with privacy. Now, users will have the same opportunity to be just as public on Facebook without getting a Facebook Page (“public profile”) as well.

According to Facebook, users can now choose to share status updates with:

  • Everyone: Anyone, on or off, of Facebook can see it.
  • Friends and Networks: People you have confirmed as friends and people in any school or work networks that you’ve joined can see it.
  • Friends of Friends: Anyone who is friends with a friend of yours can see it.
  • Friends: Only people you have confirmed as friends can see it.
  • Custom: Choose any friend or Friend List to include or exclude from seeing that piece of content.

The concept behind per-item privacy controls on shared content is powerful: now, users can share content that’s not privacy-sensitive publicly (like interesting links or comments about the weather) while still only sharing personal information with friends. The new publisher also allow users to only share status updates with particular friend lists, making it easy to share content that’s only intended for some friends to not be visible to others.

Facebook says the new publisher is now available to people “who had previously set their status updates and profile privacy settings to be visible to ‘Everyone,'” but that the test should be expanded to more users soon. We’ll of course keep you updated as Facebook contniues to roll out the new publisher more widely.