What Is Going On In Facebook's "Outside World"?

When we wrote about Facebook‘s minor design changes earlier today, we didn’t take an extremely close look at the screenshots that were embedded in the accompanying blog post the company’s design team published about the tweaks. If we had, we may or may not have noticed that they featured two nuggets that most definitely deserve a second glance, but FBhive most certainly took notice.

What did they see?

Well for starters, Facebook Product Designer Alexandre Roche‚Äôs profile appears to have an extra filter for his news feed, labeled ‘Outside World’ and accompanied by an icon that represents a laboratory beaker (likely because it concerns an experimental feature).

Additionally, FBhive has spotted what appears to be a new ‘plus’ icon and number next to the Comment and Like numbers for a Video in the Highlights section of Roche’s profile page.

This calls for speculation!

FBhive – assuming it’s not a third-party application – believes ‘Outside World’ is a filter that would display content from other websites and applications you’ve subscribed to inside Facebook. This would extend the social network into a giant web-based RSS reader that could integrate seamlessly with the sharing features offered by Facebook. Makes sense to us, and we can imagine this would make waves in Webland if true. That is, if it ever sees the light of day.

The second thing FBhive spotted in my opinion is far more intriguing. As reported by the Facebook-centric blog, the (+) sign that appears next to the number of comments and likes of a highlighted video – uploaded by Facebook employee Helen Min – looks like the icon that is used for Facebook Credits (check for yourself here). These can be used by members of the social network to purchase virtual gifts in Facebook’s Gift Shop, give credits to other users or to interact with a select number of third-party applications such as GroupCard and SocialCalendar.

Unless of course it isn’t a plus sign at all and we’re looking at it the wrong way (Erick says it looks more like a diamond). Question remains then what it represents, possibly the number of shares or reposts, or a shortcut to bookmarking content?

If it is in fact the Credits icon, the question is why this virtual currency could in the future possibly be assigned by users to content like videos and possibly other multimedia. FBhive thinks it could be a way for publishers, amateurs and professionals alike, to monetize material uploaded to the social networking service by directly getting tipped by viewers and fans through micro-payments. Again, this is a plausible explanation, and an exciting one to think over considering Facebook’s highly anticipated payment platform (which is currently being tested).

Care to speculate a little more?

Update: Facebook got back to us. The credits are a feature Facebook has been testing since April and “Outside World” is a feature for Facebook employees which allows them to filter out the streams of other Facebook employees and see only the streams of their non-Facebook friends.