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Despite many registering their ‘dislike’, the social network’s new features are here to stay.

WHEN Facebook revamped many of its most heavily used features lately, millions of users were not exactly happy. For days, the hashtag #newFacebook on Twitter was a litany of complaints: the new features were too busy, too complicated, too ”un-Facebook”.

But the changes – which chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook brains trust see as the most important since the addition of games and other software apps in 2007 – are not going away. Perhaps the biggest innovation, a feature called Timeline, which Zuckerberg calls ”the story of your life”, isn’t even officially available yet.

Facebook is taking the main feature people use to keep up with the activities of their friends and splitting it into two: Ticker and News Feed.

The significant addition is Ticker, a virtually unfiltered, automatically updating stream of the actions of your friends. Ticker, which scrolls down the upper right side of the home page, is supposed to provide a real-time sense of what your friends, and the brands and businesses you like, are doing at any moment.

By clicking a Ticker item, you can join in instantly – from sending a happy birthday wish, to friending someone your friend is friending, to listening to the new Wilco album through the Spotify app.

The stream of Stories that runs down the centre of the home page is still there but it has been changed.

Since it was launched five years ago, News Feed has been a primary way people keep track of their friends. ”[It] is the lifeblood of Facebook,” says Meredith Chin, a communications manager for the company.

You used to be able to toggle back and forth between Top Stories, the posts Facebook’s algorithms judged most interesting to you, and Most Recent, the freshest content. Now, there is one News Feed with the content Facebook judges to be most interesting based on your interests and social connections.

Relationships on Facebook used to be two-way connections; both parties had to agree. Now the Subscribe button allows you to create one-way relationships with anyone, just like Twitter.

Celebrities or leading business figures on Facebook are unlikely to agree to friend requests from millions of fans. But by visiting their profile pages and clicking Subscribe, every post publicly shows up on a News Feed. Existing friends are automatically subscribed to each other but the feature allows you to adjust whether you want to see all their posts, some of them or only the most important ones – useful for people you don’t dislike enough to unfriend but who share too much.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

‘Creepy’ app spies

on your Facebook

relationship status

Ben Grubb

March 1, 2011

The Breakup Notifier Facebook app.
The Breakup Notifier Facebook app.

A new Facebook app that immediately alerts users when someone on whom they have a crush changes their relationship status is causing a stir.

To some it might be seen as an invasion of privacy, to others the ultimate tool to find out when a crush becomes available. But to US-based Dan Loewenherz, 24, who is the founder of the “Breakup Notifier” Facebook app, it was a joke, at least to begin with.

Although Facebook lets users view the relationship status of any friend at any time, the Breakup Notifier app alerts you automatically via email, removing the need to check constantly.

toon in anticipation of story.
Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

The idea came from overhearing a conversation Mr Loewenherz’s soon-to-be fiancee and mother-in-law were having, he said in a telephone interview with this website.

“I heard … [them] talking about a guy that they wanted to set up my fiancee’s sister with,” he said.

“And they were probably talking about it for at least 15 minutes and at the end of the conversation they were interested in looking at some photos of him on Facebook and so they went on Facebook and they immediately found out that he had a girlfriend. So at point they were kind of bummed. And … I thought maybe it would be cool if … they would be interested in [being notified] when a relationship ended.”

Founder Dan Loewenherz.Founder Dan Loewenherz. Photo: Supplied

The following weekend Mr Loewenherz set out to create a Facebook app that would do just that, spending four hours on it. The Breakup Notifier app was launched on February 20 and attracted more than 10,000 profile installs, Mr Loewenherz said. But after some negative feedback, Facebook blocked it, he said.

However, shortly after it was blocked, Mr Loewenherz relaunched it again under the new name “Crush Notifier“.

The Crush Notifier app differs from the Breakup Notifier app in that both people need to have a crush on each other before they find out whether there’s a possibility of a relationship.

“You will not receive an email unless you both crush each other,” the app’s site states.

But now that Facebook has unblocked the Breakup Notifier app, Mr Loewenherz is charging for its use, as well as charging for the Crush Notifier app. When first launched both apps were free.

Relationships Australia NSW chief executive Anne Hollonds said the Breakup Notifier app was “interesting because you could think of it as either completely creepy or actually really useful”.

“[In] some ways it’s possibly one of the most useful things that Facebook could do because, if that’s what people are using Facebook for, some of them – is to keep tabs on a crush – then it certainly makes it a whole lot easier, doesn’t it?”

But she said “the downside” of apps such as Mr Loewenherz’s was that there were some in the community who were “quite naive and vulnerable” and who “aren’t understanding the risks or the dangers of … putting their information up”.

“For example, someone might not realise they’re being stalked in this case,” she said.

To lodge a crush on the Crush Notifier app you need to buy a minimum of 50 Facebook credits ($4.92), which will give you the opportunity of having a crush on five people.

To spy on, watch, or monitor a person’s relationship status with the Breakup Notifier app, you will need to buy a minimum of 10 Facebook credits ($0.98), which will give you the ability to keep an eye on just one user.

“I think the feedback people give on Crush Notifier is far less negative,” Mr Loewenherz said. “It’s almost 100 per cent positive. So not many people are blocking it and Facebook’s alarms haven’t gone off. Facebook definitely knows about it but they’re not really taking any action against it. I think they’re actually totally fine with the idea.”

He said he believed the new app was more accepted because of its name.

“[Crush Notifier is more about] creating relationships instead of celebrating their demise, I guess.”

There were “three groups” of people when it came to analysis of the Breakup Notifier app, Mr Loewenherz said.

“One group thought it was hilarious and thought it was really funny. And that was kind of how I intended it to be but it didn’t end up being like that. It was originally just a joke,” he said.

Then there was the group that had found a “utility out of it and who are really happy it was made”.

And, thirdly, there were the people who were “very offended by it”, he said.

In the first two days that the Breakup Notifier app was initially running it “had a couple [of] million people” go to its app site. “Our user database … hit 3.7 million records”, Mr Loewenherz said.

Facebook said that “as a matter of policy” it did not comment, nor provide details, on why applications were blocked.

Unrelated to the app, Facebook said it would reintroduce a feature that one security expert criticised Facebook forimplementing.

In February, it announced it would give developers of applications access to the contact information of users who install their apps.

Shortly after the feature was launched, Facebook turned it off to adjust the way it would work. But now Facebook plans to reintroduce it.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha