Facebook Launches 'Community Pages'
In advance of its f8 developer conference on Wednesday, Facebook Monday formally announced its new "Community Pages" for people to connect more easily with others on the social network who share similar interests.
The new Community Pages, soft-launched earlier this month, will serve as an alternative to the official Facebook Pages for businesses, organizations and public figures. The aim is to let people create unofficial pages around topics, themes or ideas that don't fit easily into more narrowly tailored Facebook Groups.
Still in beta, the new initiative will allow Facebook users to link information from their profile pages directly to community pages about related interests, affiliations and favorite activities, according to a company blog post today.
"Now, certain parts of your profile, including your current city, hometown, education and work, and likes and interests, will contain 'connections.' Instead of just boring text, these connections are actually Pages, so your profile will become immediately more connected to the places, things and experiences that matter to you," wrote Facebook's Alex Li.
The social network has already created 6.5 million Community Pages on its own that include Wikipedia information on a given subject like cooking, as well as a live stream of all recent relevant Facebook data such as public status updates, according to Inside Facebook.
Facebook has begun prompting users to edit profile information to link either to either official Pages or the new Community Pages. When they go to their profile pages next, they'll see a pop-up box recommending Pages based on interests and affiliations they've already added. Users can select which pages will be made public to people who aren't Facebook friends or who aren't logged in when looking for someone.
Facebook also confirmed that users will also now just click "Like" to become a fan of any Page instead of the "Become a Fan" button, which has been phased out. If someone wants to stop linking to a Page, they can click to "Unlike" it at the bottom of the screen or remove it while editing their profile. Conversely, other linked Pages can be featured by dragging and dropping them above or below the fold.
Facebook also lets users hide all Pages from being immediately visible on someone's profile, but visitors can still view them by clicking "show more" on a profile.
Shiv Singh, global social media lead at Razorfish, said adding Community Pages was a logical step for Facebook. "When the [Facebook] started out, they saw Facebook Groups as a place for people to come together around particular interests, like people who love Mercedes Benz, and created official Pages for brands. But they realized there's a lot more else going on the Web," said Singh.
He added that the move allows Facebook to compete more directly now with other online information providers from Wikipedia to Demand Media.
But with the new Community Pages, Singh warned that Facebook risks confusing people with the variety of options for interacting on the site. "So the real question isn't whether this will get adopted, but whether it will be confusing to consumers, to marketers and to agencies," he said. But if users flock to Community Pages, so too will advertisers looking for specific audiences, he acknowledged.
Facebook earlier Tuesday had denied a Financial Times story that it would announce a new behavioral targeting program at the f8 conference. The newspaper later in the day had corrected the report. "We have no announcements or changes planned to our ad offering or ad policies," said a Facebook spokesperson.