Earlier this week, Facebook released a new feature called “People You May Know.” Three random friends of friends are displayed in the right sidebar of your homepage in the hopes that you’ll make more connections.
When you click the “see all” link, a longer list of possible friends is offered up. Of the 27 people displayed, I knew 16 of them!
I really like that I can see a few of our mutual friends to give each name and face more context. It’s not an exhaustive list and the order in which people are displayed seems arbitrary, but it’s still an easy way to expand your network. While you might not actually want to know all of these people, the potential to find your long lost best friend is pretty exciting.
Everyone has seen this type of functionality before; take Amazon‘s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” for instance. Finding commonalities among connected individuals on a social networking site is fairly easy. And the FOAF concept isn’t new. More often than not in the real world people meet each other through an introduction by a mutual friend — at a bar, at a game, at work. It helps people not feel like strangers: there’s a point of reference, and responsibility on the part of the introducer to vouch for both parties.
I’ve seen features like this around the web for a while, so I decided to make a concerted effort to find the instances on sites that I frequent. If I’ve missed any, please let me know in the comments.
This component is displayed on the LinkedIn homepage and has made me say to myself, “Oh right I forgot about that guy!” on more than one occasion. I like that job title is shown to help you place the name. Unfortunately the names don’t rotate on page refresh; you have to explicitly invite or remove a person before someone new is displayed.
As you can see, this is pretty familiar. Facebook literally took a page out of the LinkedIn book. But here only 10 people are displayed, and hitting refresh doesn’t rotate the names. Still, I knew half of them.
The “Others you might know” tab on the Manage Connections page of Dopplr.com displays a long list of people with whom you might want to share your travel itinerary. How these people are chosen is explained at the top: “We have included travellers who can see the trips of some of your fellow travellers.” The logic is pretty good — if you share your trips with Joe and Joe has shared his trips with Jane, there’s a possibility that you might know Jane and want to share your trips with her. If someone is sharing their trips with you but you’re not reciprocating, they are also displayed on this page.
Out of the first 20 people displayed, I knew four of them. A nice feature at the bottom of the page is the “suggest more people…” link, which reveals another 20 possible connections.
FriendFeed has a simple and nice implementation of this. On the Friend Settings page, click on the Recommended tab to find people who are “popular” among your friends, displayed alphabetically. It may be that these are the most common subscriptions among all of the people you subscribe to, or it might just be that these people have the highest number of subscribers. Either way, I found six people that I knew out of the 18 displayed.
I’ve just recently started using Goodreads so I haven’t really built my network yet. I think I’m only connected to four people on there. But that didn’t prevent them from being able to recommend 25 people that I might know. I ended up knowing five.
On the Friends page there’s a “Friends of friends” link. They say that these are the “most connected” friends of your friends. Something about being connected implies popularity, which might be related to knowability. It’s a different concept than the other sites, but for me has the lowest success rate.
Apparently Goodreads worries about abuse of this feature, since at the bottom of the page they note, “IMPORTANT: Please only add people that you already know; misuse of this service will result in your membership being cancelled.” I suppose spammers go on there and try to add lots of people as friends, but why is that different than any other networking site? And without a “check all” control, who would take the time to check every name on the page?
Okay, so it’s just like Goodreads, but only three people are displayed (probably because I’m only connected to two people). The language on abuse is so similar that I assumed the sites were owned by the same company. Not the case, but it turns out that one of Goodread’s angel investors, Michael Berch, is the founder of Bebo.
On the Find Friends page is a “Friends of my friends” section where random friends of friends are displayed because “perhaps they’re your friends too.” Of the 17 people shown, I knew a whopping ZERO of them — even though I’m connected to 12 people. That’s pretty surprising. So Pownce takes the cake for least useful People You May Know feature on the web.
Did I miss a particularly pleasurable or painful implementation on a site that you frequently use? If so, be sure to let me know in the comments — and don’t forget to leave screenshots!