“Are social networks losing their distinction?”
That’s the question I asked last night when I first noticed the new Subscriptions feature on Facebook.
If you aren’t familiar with Subscriptions, here’s a quick rundown from Facebook’s Introducing the Subscribe Button page:
- You now have the option to control what updates appear on your News Feed. “For each person, you could hide all game stories, see just photos, limit updates to life events and more.”
- You can now pull updates from people who aren’t on your friend list into your News Feed. ”You’ve always been subscribed to friends. Now you can hear from journalists, celebrities, political figures and other people too. Click the Subscribe button on someone’s profile to get their public updates in your News Feed.”
- You can lock your profile so that others are unable to subscribe to your updates. “Only people who allow subscribers will have a Subscribe button on their profile. If you don’t see the button, you can’t subscribe…Subscribers can see only the things you share publicly.”
That sounds familiar, right? In essence, this feature mirrors Twitter. This ZDNet article by Emil Protalinski
calls Subscriptions a clear “answer to Twitter,” and I couldn’t agree more. Sure, Subscriptions offers more flexibility since you can select only the most important information from your friends to appear on your News Feed. That isn’t something you can do on Twitter. However, as Protalinski mentions in his article, most users don’t turn to Facebook for a subscription/following experience — they turn to Twitter.
I’m one of those users. If I’m looking for an exclusive, private experience that helps me keep in touch with my friends and family, I turn to Facebook. For a public and more open experience that gives me the opportunity to interact with friends, family, acquaintances and even people I’ve never met, I turn to Twitter.
But now more than ever, it seems like social networks are beginning to offer “more of the same,” whether it’s on a larger scale like Facebook’s Subscriptions
or on a smaller scale like Twitter’s Recent Images/User Galleries
. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are not nearly as different from each other as before. And with the launch of Google+ earlier on this summer, it’s obvious that fully integrating some of the most popular social media features into one network is becoming a more appealing option for developers.
But here’s the question: Is that full integration as appealing to social media users as it is to developers? Or will new features like these alienate a good portion of each social network’s users?
As social media have continued to evolve over time, it’s become apparent to me that social networks may be losing their distinction. Again, what was only offered by Twitter is now offered by Facebook, and what was only offered by Skype is now offered by Google+. Keep in mind that I’m not saying these scenarios are necessarily negative — some social media users may actually prefer these changes. I’m just pointing out that social networks seem less inclined to stand on their own and stick to their initial unique offerings.
So what will be the end result? Only time will tell.
What do you think — Do you think social networks are headed in a direction that will cause each to lose its distinction? Do you prefer a more integrated social experience, or do you prefer to use different social networks for different things? I’d love to hear from you.