Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Facebook has just launched five new 'prototype' apps that you can activate (click on 'New prototypes' to see the list). The announcement took place at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco. It was also announced that the social network site had passed the 300 million user mark.

It took just five months to go from 200 million to 300 million users.

Another announcement came with news that Facebook would support voice interaction, in addition to the current text chat feature. Facebook is not slowing down, and rival Twitter has a long way to go before it catches up, with less than 20 million current users.

Facebook has also introduced @ tagging, which allows users to tag friends in status updates.

But the new apps are exciting. I activated two of them.

The 'Recent Comments Filter' is a great way to catch up on comments your friends made while you were doing other stuff. You know how it is. A friend posts an item and you register it. In facebook, if you 'like' an item or comment on it any subsequent comments on that item will be shown to you. But items you didn't comment on or 'like' are not treated this way.

The 'Recent Comments' tool lets you see what your friends commented on, but of course it only shows you those comments made on items posted by your friends. so you don't ever get outside your own 'friend cloud'.

It's a great tool.

The other tool I activated is the 'Similar Posts' tool. I'm not sure how sophisticated this keyword matcher is, but it seems to offer a way to search through posts that you didn't make yourself. It may be that you remember a post by a friend on a particular topic, say a topic related by keyword to a post you are now looking at. All you do is click on the 'Similar Posts' button on each News Feed item. This brings up a list of similar posts.

The similar posts that appear can be outside your friend cloud. This is exciting, as it gives you access to a huge range of information you would never normally be able to see. It's not wildly accurate as you cannot do the more refined searches you may desire to do, such as those you would normally do using quote marks. But it's a start. To clear the search just click on 'News Feed'.

This one seems good for searching but I think I'll probably be using the 'Recent Comments' tool more often than the other one.

You can read more about the new apps at Inside facebook and at TechCrunch.

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