Facebook Introductions on the way?

Facebook just released a feature that suggests people you may know, described well in this Inside Facebook post.  This feels like the biggest step Facebook has taken to get closer to the type of introduction functionality that is at the heart of LinkedIn and  going there seems like a very obvious next step for Facebook.

A quick rundown of the new functionality first. A sidebar entry on your homepage rotates through a couple of people who you share friends with like this:

and the see all page shows you lists of people who you share friends with.  Dyk_2
A lot of the people are just people who you share hyperconnected Facebook friends with (Jon Staenberg knows EVERYONE!).  But it’s also very interesting to see people who you share friends with in completely different social circles.  I’ve definitely had a few, WAIT A SEC, HOW DO THEY KNOW EACH OTHER?!? moments.

My experience browsing the lists is that about 25% of the people suggested are people I actually am friends or acquaintances with, but just haven’t added on Facebook.  About 50% are people I am familiar with, but don’t know personally.  And the remaining quarter are people I don’t know at all.  Basically, a perfect platform from which to launch LinkedIn-style introductions.

I’ve written about contact segmentation in social networking in the past.  This is something that is going to be more important in social networks as boundaries of friends, business colleagues, and online acquaintances start to blur.  Facebook is giving a nod to that with their Privacy Changes and Friend Lists.  But as Facebook and other networks break down the tenuous walls around friends and contacts, having context about the nature of these relationships is going to be more important, and that’s something we’ve been working on.  The ClearContext Contact Exporter lets you extract and export sets of contacts from groups of Outlook folders, allowing you to export everyone you’ve invited to parties onto Facebook or groups like your investment contacts into LinkedIn.  But now that the roles of these social networks are overlapping more, it’s more likely to have both types of contacts in both places, so having richer information about the strength and nature of your relationships known by those sites will become more important – and analyzing email interactions is a good way to figure that out.  In our upcoming ClearContext release we’ve already added more contact-focused interactions directly into messaging workflow, allowing you to work with groups of contacts related to specific contexts or projects.  As we continue to be overwhelmed by information and and ever-increasing number of ways to exchange that information and interact with each other, it’s a really exciting time to be working on intelligent solutions to help people survive in this new era of hyperconnected communications.

Update:  One of the most hyperconnected folks around, the lovely Adriana Gascoigne, just wrote about how much she loves Facebook for virtual networking.   She’s not alone on that by any means, and that is exactly why I think we’ll be seeing functionality like Facebook Introductions soon.

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