Facebook recently rolled out a new home page interface that displays a select list of the user's friends along the vertical length of the right side of the screen. It makes it easy to see when these friends are available to chat at anytime while you're using Facebook.
The problem, which many of us have probably noticed, but few have really made an issue of in the press/Blogosphere is that it is now harder to find other friends who may actually be online and available to chat. That's because Facebook is filtering this list of friends to the ones it assumes you'll want to chat with.
Josh Constine at InsideFacebook has a new post discussing this, in which he shares the reasoning provided by Facebook's Director of Product Peter Deng. Deng says, “The goal of the new design is to give more people faster access to the friends they message most. Looking at the early data of how people are engaging with and using Chat, things are moving in this direction.”
That may be true, but should it be at the cost of slower access to those we don't necessarily talk to all the time, but are still friends with, and may feel the need to strike up a conversation to say hi every now and then? We're already friends on Facebook aren't we?
The nice thing about seeing when ANY of your friends were available online was that you might have noticed someone you hadn't talked to in a long time and felt like saying hello. It almost served as a convenient way to keep in touch with those with whom you were once close, but don't necessarily think about or have the time to write a message to on any given busy day. If you just happened to notice them in the available chat list, well that was a different story.
Now, you have to go so far as to search for that friend to even figure out if they're available to chat, and if you don't talk to them often enough for them to appear on your new chat list, what are the chances that you're actually going to do this very often.
Facebook has come under criticism in recent months for the way it filters content in the news feed, and recent reports even indicate that a new unfiltered news feed is on the way, presumably in response to such criticism (though as it stands now, you can adjust your feed settings to show what you want it to show).
Facebook has been a big contributor to the "filter bubble" concept, in terms of filtering content, and now, it seems they're filtering how we actually interact with our friends as well.
But at least we're able get "faster access" to the friends we message the most. You know, because it was such a slow, cumbersome process before.
By the way, the system is flawed, because there are some people on my list that I never talk to, and there is someone I talked to a few days ago at length that is nowhere to be found on my list.