Facebook Tests “Find Friends Browser” for Discovering Real Life Friends

Facebook appears to be testing a Find Friends Browser feature as a new part of its tool for helping people connect with Facebook users they already know in real life. In it, users can select to view friend suggestions of people who share their same location, work, education provider, or who are friends with a specific friend of theirs. The Find Friends Browser makes it easy to find people you know, but haven’t necessarily contacted before through email, instant messenger, or another service from which Facebook imports contacts.

Users could previously find which friends shared some of these attributes with them through filters on the search interface, or by going to the mutual friends section of another user’s profile, clicking see all, and selecting the “Browse” tab. However, the “Friends of…” and home town options are not available elsewhere, and the Find Friends Browser is specifically designed for adding new friends.

Helping new users find their real world friends is crucial to them graduating from a nearly empty news feed to being socially tied to Facebook for the long term. The company has been busy introducing features to make that process easier. In July, it promoted the Find Friends tool with prompts on the home page. The Find Friends Browser could also offset the potential reduction in friend finding capabilities resulting from Google no longer allowing Facebook to import Google Contacts.

It is currently unclear how users can navigate to the Find Friends Browser, but those in the test group can access it at http://www.facebook.com/find-friends/browser/. There they’ll see inputs and drop-down menus for the various parameters through which they can find friends, including high school, college, employer, hometown, and currenct city. For instance, users can see people who have the same hometown that they currently list in their profile or that they’ve previously listed, or the user can type in another home town to search. This helps users find people from their childhood who they might not have talked to in years.

The last parameter is “Friends of…”, which shows suggestions of people who are friends with a specific friend of the Find Friends Browser user. This is especially useful for when you are away from home, form a close relationship with one person and friend them, but then want to send friend requests to others you met on the same vacation or business trip.

The suggestions returned display how many friends you have in common, and the tool appears to use this number and other factors to rank results by relevance. When a user mouses over one of the suggestions, an “Add as friend” button appears, allowing them to quickly send multiple friend requests without leaving the browser.

You may be less likely to know Find Friends Browser suggestions than those based on imported records of people you’ve emailed or instant messaged with. However, being in the same high school class often provides more basis for real friendship than simply sharing a professional email exchange. In this way, the Find Friends Browser helps users find distant associates they might have otherwise forgotten.

[Thanks to Diana Nogueira for the tip]