Facebook Hosts Special Media Event, Makes Announcements

From their corporate headquarters in Palo Alto on Wednesday, Facebook hosted a special media event to showcase some of their latest updates and changes to the popular social networking site.

While some of these site-enhancements, specifically the ability to upload hi-res images to Facebook  and an improved chat feature have leaked out prior to the event, a long list of new features were announced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The event focused on three major new features including the ability to download your information from Facebook, a revamped application privacy dashboard, and finally the ability to create tightly-controlled groups.

Facebook’s new ‘Download Your Information’ tool allows users to port their data from Facebook in a .zip file format and essentially allows users to take their entire profile from Facebook and do with it what they please.

“People own and have control over all info they put into Facebook and “Download Your Information” enables people to take stuff with them,” Zuckerberg announced on Wednesday.

A one-click process will download everything from your profile, including your list of friends, events, all of your messages, notes, wall posts and all of your photo albums and videos. An intriguing idea, and one that lends credence to Facebook’s claims that they are an open platform concerned about your privacy and user’s ownership of their own personal data.

Privacy concerns about Facebook in the recent past, tended to revolve around who had access to what information in your personal profile. However, with the rise of Facebook Connect, millions of sites and apps that leverage the Facebook platform, today’s concerns should also be on which app or which site you’ve liked now has access to your personal data. With Facebook’s new Application Privacy Dashboard, users will have granular control over what app or what site can do with your profile. Available from within your privacy settings area, users will be able to view the permissions each app or each site has access to within your social graph. The new dashboard will let Facebook users manage their permissions that apps have, restricting the access individual apps possess or restricting actions such as being able to post to your wall.

Rounding out the new features, is the new Facebook Groups, which is perhaps the most interesting of the three announcements. While Facebook users have long had the ability to create so-called ‘Friends Lists’ to better restrict what posts were shown to what individuals, the process of creating these lists was cumbersome. As a result, only around five percent of users bothered to do so. In response to this, Facebook is launching a ‘groups’ feature that will allow you to create essentially a social network within a social network.

Creating a group should be much easier than creating a friends list, is controllable by all members of the newly-created group, and will allow such features as group chat, group document sharing and editing, and special apps that will be designed to be used within these groups. Click on a group in your left sidebar and you’ll see a special news feed for only that group.

Some nifty enhancements, don’t you think? Many of these features will be available to some users immediately, while others will roll-out over the next couple of weeks.

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