Facebook offers new tools, changing way users share information

CEO Zuckerberg announces new Groups feature, Download Your Information tool and dashboard (see image, below)

Facebook engineers have been in a lockdown for the past 60 days working on new products, and the company on Wednesday took the wraps off several of those tools and showed how they will change how users share information.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new tool called Download Your Information, which is designed to enable users to download everything they have ever posted to the site, such as photos, status updates and wall posts.

Another new tool is a dashboard that monitors what applications people have used, notes the last time they were used and makes it easier to delete them.

But the biggest news of the day came when Zuckerberg started talking about enabling users to post comments that only some of their friends can see.

For instance, some users might want to post pictures from the day they played hooky from work but don't want their boss or co-workers to see them. Or someone might want to post something about a fun night out but not necessarily want Grandma to see that information.

One of the problems, though, is that users have never seemed overly committed to creating groups of friends, Zuckerberg said during a webcast of the company press conference in Palo Alto, Calif. Only about 5% of users have created lists, he said.

To fix this, the social network overhauled its Facebook Groups.

"We set out to build a solution that could help you map out all of your communities, that would be simple enough that everyone would use it and that would be deeply integrated across Facebook and applications so you can communicate with your different groups in lots of different ways," Zuckerberg said.

"Rather than asking all of you to classify how you know all of your friends, or programming machines to guess which sets of people are likely cohorts, we're offering something that's as simple as inviting your best friends over for dinner. And we think it will change the way you use Facebook and the Web."

Users can add friends or family members to a group and then those people can invite others to the same group.

Expanding from its regular chat feature, which lets two people communicate live online, Facebook also announced Group Chats, which applies to this feature to multiple users.

"We've heard loud and clear that you want more control over what you share on Facebook -- to manage exactly who sees it and to understand exactly where it goes," Zuckerberg said. "With this new Groups experience, and the other tools we're rolling out today, we're taking a few important steps forward towards giving you precise controls."

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new dashboard that will monitor apps that people have used on the site.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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