Facebook Testing New News Feed, SMS Follow Options for Friends

Facebook friendship has historically been a very mutual relationship: when you become “friends” with another user, you gain access to their profile and their updates show up in your stream (and vice versa) by default. Last year, however, Facebook created more granular privacy controls and friend lists allowing users to limit how much information is shared with particular friends. And now, Facebook is testing a new feature allowing users to choose whether or not they want to show updates from friends in their stream at all inside friend requests.

In addition to giving users the option to add a friend without subscribing to their updates, Facebook is also giving users the option to subscribe to friends’ updates via SMS. When you subscribe to a friend via SMS, their status updates are sent to your phone by text message. Subscribing to friends’ SMS updates is less common (as it is today on Twitter). However, SMS updates are useful for friends you may want to follow closely or in real time – and they’re also very engaging for Facebook.

Ultimately, this test shows Facebook is testing out the impact of allowing more granular subscription options on friend request and friend list user behavior patterns. We expect Facebook to increasingly test options like this that effectively make Facebook relationships more asymmetric than mutual – which will impact the way Platform application and Page content spread throughout the system.