From technology to politics to video games; these are the random thoughts of a geek with too much time on his hands
So much unrealized potential
Published on July 19, 2007 By Zoomba In Internet

When it comes to social networking sites, Facebook is at the top of the list lately with it's powerful application platform and robust user pages.  Unfortunately one of its most promising features, Groups, seems to have been left in the dust.

A lot of talk and attention has been directed towards Facebook lately, especially since the opening of the application platform so any user with a PC and an itch to code can add more or less any function they desire to the wildly popular social networking site.  On the whole, the applications platform has done great things for the site and turned the profile pages into great information, productivity and entertainment tools.

Of course, all of this is great, except it’s not applied evenly.  On one hand you have your amazing profile page system, with limitless potential thanks to third party applications, but on the other hand you have the Groups system.  Like the name implies, a Facebook Group is a point for users with some common interest come together.  In theory, you’d think this would be a fantastic opportunity to leverage all the vast amount of data each user represents in some really interesting way.  Wouldn’t it be cool to see what countries of the world are represented in a particular group?  There are tons of possibilities.  Possibilities that are sadly ignored at the moment.

In a Facebook group, all you can do is post to the “wall”, a common bulletin board that is displayed on the main group page, post to a more traditional discussion board for your group, or post photos.  There’s no way to integrate applications, no way to easily extend functionality.  When you form a group, you essentially have a glorified web forum.

Things aren’t much better from an admin standpoint.  I am the co-admin on the Desktop Customization group on Facebook, which has seen very strong growth since we launched it just a few short days ago.  What can I modify?  Group description, type, news, basic profile information, and who else has admin rights on the group.  The options for which functions you want to have on your group number a massive four.

  • Show related groups
  • Enable discussion board
  • Enable the wall
  • Enable photos

That’s it.  At this moment in time that’s what you’re limited to if you want to run a group on Facebook.

Here’s what I’d like to see added to the Facebook Group system.  Adding in some of these features would make the group system as much of a killer feature as the profile pages are.  Facebook could be the premier site for social groups as well as individuals.

  1. Applications for Groups
    Let the ingenious developers get access to the group system.  You’ve seen the success that resulted from profile applications.  Imagine the possibilities when you have access to a much larger, and more diverse pool of information.  Opening it up for third party applications also means less work for the Facebook core team as they don’t have to worry as much about developing new functionality themselves.
  2. Tags
    Tagging is the wave of the future man!  Allow groups to tag themselves with keywords, making it easier for them to be found, and also for users to be better able to sort what’s out there.  I’d love to see all groups at a glance that flag themselves with the keyword “Vista”  While searching does accomplish this to an extent, single-click sorting from the group page is probably a lot easier for users to get their heads around.  We have tags for photos, why not for groups?
  3. News Feed
    Right now, you can specify one current news item for the group.  That’s it.  When you want to update it, you overwrite the current news.  It would be nice to have a listing of news items to scan back through.  This would help the Groups system supplant external web sites.  Many group web pages are used to distribute news or information, and have a news page of some sort.  Give users that same functionality as a group.
  4. Better Member Sorting
    My group has 120 people in it right now.  There is no easy way to sort through them.  Who’s the most recent?  How many people belong to the same main networks?  I’d like to see if there’s any sort of commonality between my group members.  Think of it almost as groups within the group.  This information will help any group admin figure out how to best promote and manage their group.
  5. Posting Video & Audio
    Ok, I can toss up photos, which are great and all, but video is where things are going… I mean, I hear there’s this new-fangled thing called YouTube out there that lets users upload their own videos to share with people.  Also, a bit older but still cool, are these things called podcasts.  Allowing a group to link and host rich media content adds a lot of value.
  6. Invite Users Who Aren’t Your Friend
    Ok, this one could border on a spamming nightmare, but in general, groups should be able to invite users who might be interested but with whom the admins might not be friends with.  Instead of having an internal method for this, I have been emailing contacts outside of Facebook with a group link to join.  Make it easier to connect with people without having to resort to outside communication.
  7. Block Rearrangement
    This one is more important once more features are added.  On my personal profile I can rearrange blocks of content more or less as I please.  I can’t move anything on the group.  If we ever get more options on what to include in a group, being able to move things around is a must.
  8. Better User Access Management
    Lets say I have an officer who isn’t an administrator.  I would like them to be able to moderate the discussion board, but not the wall.  Or maybe I want them to just be able to update the news item.  Right now, if you want a user to edit more or less anything on the group, they have to be a full-fledged administrator.  Granular access for officers is key for large and growing groups.

This is all off the top of my head after playing with Groups for a few days.  I’m sure if I were to seriously sit down and try and design my ideal Group experience, I’d be able to come up with a lot more.  I’d be happy though if even half of the above ideas were implemented.  Facebook Groups stand to do for small online social sites (gaming clans, blog groups etc) what the Facebook Profile page did for personalized homepages.  It could make them obsolete.

But for now, I remain frustrated with the lack of options and make due with what we have.  It’d be nice if there was any mention on the official blog of any work on Groups being planned, but I know that right now all the attention and effort is being centered on the application platform for user profiles.

on Jul 19, 2007
You have some interesting suggestions! I'm not a member of Facebook but have been interested in seeing what develops from time to time. I've read a few articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education on what's going on as well.

I was going to write an article the other day but never got around to it about how the administrators of Facebook made changes that caused quite an uproar amongst its members because each member could see whenever any person made changes, what changes they made and other details that weren't necessary for anyone else but the individual who owns that acct to really know. It's grown a lot though since inception and now that they are letting anyone join, it's even more popular.
on Jul 19, 2007
I found the article! Link

on Jul 19, 2007
Zoomba, have you sent a link about this article to the Facebook crew?  I'm sure it would generate at least some response, since you have some very valid points.  I, personally, agree with much of what you've said.  Other areas of Facebook have been developing, while group pages have stayed pretty stagnant.  Improvement would be nice!
on Jul 20, 2007
Good article, however, I might like to add that you CAN add videos, courtesy of the official Facebook Video app (, you just have to add it manually as it's not on the profile by default.
on Jul 20, 2007
How do you add them to a group? I don't see an option anywhere.
on Jul 20, 2007
Here's a link to some facebook apps WWW Link
on Jul 20, 2007
The apps are for your profile page, not groups which is different.

on Jul 20, 2007
sorry! just joined fb 2 days ago
on Jul 20, 2007

The profiles system is great, it gives you a ton of options and customizability, as well as all those great 3rd party applications.  Sadly, and this is the point of this article, the Groups system lacks all of that. 

on Jul 21, 2007
For those of you that like conspiracy theories: WWW Link