Services & Software

Taking Twitter's cue, Facebook debuts Interest Lists

In advance of the social network's blockbuster public offering, a new Facebook feature to induce users to spend more time on the site debuts.

In advance of the 21st century's first blockbuster IPO, Facebook offered a lesson in how to make a Web site even more "sticky."

Interested in "interest lists?" Facebook

On Thursday, Facebook announced a new feature that lets users compile so-called interest lists around topics where the top stories from each interest group appear in their news feed. Users will be able to collect posts from celebs and pages pegged to particular categories or create lists of their own choosing. Facebookers also will be able to add someone to an Interest List feed without also needing to friend them.

"Interest lists can help you turn Facebook into your own personalized newspaper, with special sections--or feeds--for topics that matter to you. You can find traditional news sections like Business, Sports and Style or get much more personalized--like Tech News, NBA Players, and Art Critics."

Interests feature public figures and Pages related to a particular topic, and are put together by people like you. The top stories from each interest appear in your news feed so you can scan interesting headlines or click through to read more posts.

In offering an alternative to Twitter lists, Facebook is seeking it make it easier to curate and customize news feeds. It's a stretch to describe this as a move toward becoming a personalized newspaper, but this is part of a broader product strategy to make Facebook the indispensable URL on the Internet. To the degree that it succeeds, the company would take another step closer to becoming an essential platform where its users come to Facebook because they're interested in content beyond photos of their Uncle Waldo doing the Macarena.

Another cool way to stay on top of happenings in an increasingly fast-pasted 24x7 world or just the latest example in how to clutter up everyone's favorite social network? I'll let that question hang out there for you to answer.

This functionality is getting rolled out in stages so it will take some time to accurately gauge user reaction. But as TNW correctly noted, it could easily backfire: While advertisers are going to like the new feature, it also further distances users "from the personal experience in which Facebook was intended for."