Facebook appears to have it out for the developers of large family applications on Facebook. The company has created a new landing page where users can create groups specifically targeted to their family. While there is nothing unique about the end product, what is unique is the way in which Facebook is promoting the creation of new groups that are private only to family members.
According to Facebook, the Family Groups are a place to “Share stories, photos and videos with your loved ones privately and securely.” AllFacebook’s analysis is simplistic – I think this move is a major move for Facebook that will drive adoption and content creation.
The problem that Facebook faces is simple – users are often reluctant to connect across generations. While it is OK for cousins to connect, parents or children often feel conflicted about friending. Without getting into the intricacies of this interaction, it is clear that Facebook is missing a lot of latent value with awkward family connections. A child may not want to grant a parent access to their everyday goings on, but it is quite likely that the child will want to see pictures from family events, read notes about family members, or find out about events from relatives.
In theory, family groups will serve as a bridge between family members, creating a space where content can be shared securely without requiring friend connections. This is a big deal, and I think it can surface a lot of value for Facebook. Particulary, I think it will encourage more content creation and sharing (digitzing old pictures, uploading new ones from family events), and it will give late adopters a final push to join. These late adopters will be able to see content from people they care about without having to do the awkward dance of Facebook friendship (which can come later when norms are established and understood).
For this to work, Facebook needs to treat the family group as special, affording it a prominent and sensible space in the interface. If you have to click through three levels of hoops to share with your Family group, it will be a miserable failure. Facebook needs to build this product to answer the needs of late adopters who have been incentivized by family content – otherwise these users may be frustrated.
If executed properly, this is a very smart move for Facebook.