Facebook Year in Review: 2011 Props and Flops

From new features to ongoing privacy concerns, this year was a busy one for Facebook. Here's a look at the best and worst from Facebook in 2011.

Flop: Facebook's "Social Inbox"

In January, Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook’s take on unified communications with the launch of "Messages"—a platform designed to make communications more "seamless, informal, immediate, personal, simple, minimal and short," he said. Specifically, Messages aimed to make Facebook your main communication hub where you could text, email and chat with friends, all from one place.

Not everyone was on board with Messages, though. Abandoning current email providers wasn't practical for people who wanted to keep Facebook and other communications separate, and privacy concerns were still top of mind.

Props: Facebook Questions

If you're ever torn between which movie to see on a Friday night, or want advice on a product before you purchase it, Facebook Questions helps you find the answers.

Questions, which rolled out in March, lets you pose open-ended questions to your friends or post it in poll form with choices. As with any Facebook feature, though, it's wise to know the ins and outs before partaking.

Flop: Facebook Facial Recognition

If you want to keep unflattering photos from resurfacing, you'll need to check up on one privacy setting that prevents Facebook from recognizing your face in photos and prompts your friends to tag you.

According to Facebook, this facial recognition feature uses a comparison of photos you're tagged in to suggest that friends tag you in new photos. The site says that this feature is intended to save you time: Instead of tagging the same friends in 25 photos you just uploaded, you can now apply one label to multiple photos in one step.

Props: Facebook Video Calling

One of Facebook's highly anticipated new features hit the site in July: Facebook Video Calling. The service, powered by Skype, is surprisingly easy to install and use, and works with most Internet browsers.

If you don't want to make yourself available to video calls, there are a few settings you'll need to change.

Props: Facebook Friend Lists

If you have different groups of friends on Facebook—say, coworkers, high school friends and college friends—a feature that Facebook launched in September makes it easy to sort them automatically.

Facebook's "Smart Lists" groups your friends into lists you can edit, such as work, school, family and city. You can then use these lists if you want to post something targeted at one group of friends, instead of everyone.

Flop: Facebook vs. Google Smear Campaign

The war between Facebook and Google is no secret, and in May it got ugly.

PR agency Burson-Marsteller contacted a variety of news outlets on behalf of an anonymous client, pushing a story about how Google's "Social Circle" Gmail feature supposedly violated users' privacy. And what did the "anonymous source" end up being? None other than Facebook.

Props: Facebook Subscriptions

Facebook Subscriptions, which launched in September, let you see people's public posts in your News Feed, without having to friend them.

Subscriptions are similar to following a celebrity, politician or other prominent figure on Twitter, without the 140-character limit. Though the new feature does give you an inside look at someone's thoughts and opinions, allowing others to subscribe to your posts could be a nightmare, and isn't recommended for everyone.

Props: Facebook Redesigns Privacy Center

Facebook made a number of changes and additions to its suite of privacy settings in 2011. During the summer, it launched its most significant overhaul of its privacy center with a complete redesign aimed at simplifying and streamlining the settings.

The redesign was met with mixed opinions, but one thing was apparent: Facebook is finally starting to take privacy concerns seriously.

Facebook Privacy: 11 Settings to Revisit Now

Cheer: Facebook Settles With the FTC

In November, the FTC announced that Facebook agreed to settle the charges that it deceived consumers by telling them the could keep their information on Facebook private, then allowing it to be shared and made public.

In the settlement, Facebook agreed to a number of terms, including the need to obtain users' express consent before sharing their information beyond their existing privacy settings, establishing a new privacy program and submitting to an independent audit for the next 20 years.

Flop: Facebook Timeline

It's no surprise that Facebook users hate change, and the latest, most significant Facebook change to date is no exception.

Last week, Facebook made its highly anticipated profile redesign—called Timeline—public.

Timeline is intended to turn your profile into a digital scrapbook, complete with an easy way to dredge up old posts from the first day you joined.

If you want to keep your past in the past, be sure to change your privacy settings accordingly.

Props: Facebook Users Are Closer Together

Forget six degrees of separation: We're a lot closer to each other than previously thought.

According to new data from Facebook, researchers found that 99.6 percent of people are connected by five degrees of separation and 92 percent are connected by four degrees, making the average distance between two people 4.74 degrees. When the theory was first introduced, six degrees separated two people; three years ago it was 5.28 degrees.

It's a small world after all.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

Related Slideshows