Facebook Subscribe lets you get feed updates from people who don’t have to Subscribe back. It’s essentially Twitter within Facebook. So to reduce confusion and hopefully boost traction, it’s adopting Twitter’s terminology and renaming Subscribe as “Follow”. There’s no functionality change, but it should make the feature more instantly understandable, and get more people to allow followers and follow others.
Facebook tells me that starting today it will sub out the name Subscribe for Follow on user profiles that have enabled the feature and the embeddable Subscribe buttons users can place on their websites.
See Facebook prefers to name things as obviously as possible, even if those names are already taken, and its not afraid to change names to make things easier to grasp. In 2010 it totally revamped the Groups feature that had existed since the earliest days of the service but kept the name Groups. Later it ditched “become a fan” for “Like”.
It seems that when Facebook launched Subscribe in September last year, it wanted to define its own terminology for asymmetrical following. Perhaps it also found the term “followers” degrading. People want to be leaders, not followers right? Being someone’s subscriber didn’t sound so bad.
But Subscribe was only a mild success. It’s a good-enough version of Twitter that I think could satisfy people who want to get updates about their favorite celebrities, athletes, thinkers, and politicians. It means people don’t have start on a brand new social network with an empty feed and no followers just to do this, which is why I think Subscribe / Follow could limit the longterm growth of Twitter. To do that, though, it has to be comprehensible.
So rather than teach people a new word for the same thing, Facebook is sucking up its pride, and following Twitter, Tumblr, and other web services into calling Subscribe “Follow”.
You can enable Follow and start collecting followers via a link to your profile settings found here.