Facebook: promo Pages, personal profiles to converge

Facebook wants to make its personal profiles and promotional marketing Pages more like each other, and is starting the process next week.

Facebook will broaden access to member social-networking profiles and make its Pages marketing service more dynamic, with an eye to eventually erasing the line between the two products.

The details of how this will be accomplished aren't fully outlined, but the company is clear about driving in this direction, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a press conference Wednesday.

"These are two initial steps. We're not sure where this will end up," Zuckerberg said, adding that the changes are exciting because they will let people share more information and, hopefully, increase engagement on the site.

Director of Product Chris Cox calls the strategy "profiles for everyone" as Pages and profiles gradually morph into the same thing.

The changes are being driven by two converging forces.

First, organizations and public figures that have set up Pages to promote themselves want those Pages to be more dynamic with a stronger focus on comments from their fans. Thus, Pages' focus will shift from static factual information towards Facebook's Feed feature, a stream of status updates and action notifications that includes long and short text posts, photos, videos and Web links. Facebook made a similar change when it redesigned personal profiles last year.

"The [Feed] stream is what's happening," Cox said, adding that it is as important as the mythical "social graph" of connections between Facebook's 175 million members.

Second, some individual members feel constrained by the 5,000-friend limit on personal profiles, so Facebook will make it possible for many more people to tune in to someone's Feed stream, without necessarily becoming official "friends" with the person, Facebook officials said. Also, the Feed will be updated more frequently, whereas today it's refreshed on a scheduled basis. These two changes in particular seem clearly prompted by the popularity of microblogging service Twitter, with its rapid-fire, short text posts and ability to subscribe, or "follow" and search others' "tweets" in an ad-hoc manner, without befriending them.

In addition, Facebook will launch a new home page format for profiles that allows members to more granularly filter the information flowing into the Feed and "slice the stream," Cox said. For example, people will be able to see only Feed items generated by family members, close friends or co-workers, and also by items generated from certain applications, Cox said. "People have been asking for a long time for more control," he said.

The Pages redesign is already live on a select number of Pages, and will be rolled out more broadly over the next couple of months. The enhancements to the profiles home page will hit next week.

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