A look at the Facebook’s What’s New page indicates that the site is going to begin letting its users sort and categorize the people in their networks.
We’ll let you organize that long list of friends into groups so you can decide more specifically who sees what.
We have seen an almost identical implementation on Pownce, where you can make groups and assign different friends to those groups. That way, when you’re sending a message that is relevant to category (for example your family), you can send it to just that group. Similarly, with Facebook, not only will you be able to send messages on a group basis, but you will also be able to set your privacy settings so that certain groups can see certain limited elements of your profile.
With this addition, Facebook essentially allows you to make multiple profiles which are visible to different groups, and is better able to compete with professional networking sites like LinkedIn. You can have one version of your profile that shows you partying with your fraternity brothers (which is only visible to people in your ‘friends’ group), another version that shows you studying at the library (which is visible to people in the ‘family’ group), and a final version that is designed to be employer-friendly.
As Micheal Arrington points out,
It also shows the steady maturity of Facebook from a college network to a full on world network, where friendships, business contacts, family and other types of relationships need to be more fully described. And this is also as much about privacy as it is about organization – users will be able to limit the information that certain friend groups receive.
At the same time, and while I am apprehensive, this could also lead to a targeted advertising network within Facebook that is based on how you group people within your network and how you interact with your different groups of contacts.