Facebook attacks Pinterest with ‘Sets’ of posts

Identity is prismatic. You show different sides of yourself to different friends in your life. Now Facebook wants to let you share the niches of your interests while stealing thunder from Pinterest’s boards. Facebook is now testing a feature called Sets that lets you select several status updates, photos or videos and share them as a themed collection to everyone or specific friends.

Facebook confirms to TechCrunch that Sets are testing in a few countries and provided this statement: “We’re testing a way for people to create sets of specific posts, photos and videos for just the friends that want to follow along.”

Facebook has been toying with ways to compete with Pinterest more directly for years now. It tried Collection ads that let people save items to a Wishlist section of their profile. In April, Instagram launched a bookmarking feature that lets you save posts to private collections. In the following months, Facebook tried letting you follow specific niche interests in News Feed with Topics, and add status updates to photo Albums. But Facebook’s Sets are much more akin to Pinterest’s boards that can made visible to others, so you could make a wedding planning Set to share with your significant other, a vacation Set of memories with your family or a fashion Set to show off your style.

Sets were first spotted by tipsters Blake Tsuzaki and Taylor Lauren and reshared by Matt Navarra. Here’s how they work according to Facebook. Those with access will see the option to create a Set on their profile based around a theme of their choice. By default, Sets are visible to friends on your profile and in the News Feed. All your friends are defaulted to be “following” the Set so they’ll keep seeing updates about it, but they can unfollow so they’ll only see that Set on your profile and not in the News Feed. Facebook is also testing “Secret Sets” that default to only being visible to a private selection of friends you choose.

Sets could give people ways to express themselves beyond the traditional News Feed posts that can feel clumsy if one of your hobbies isn’t of widespread interest amongst your friends. While a post about a niche interest might not get enough Likes to reach the friends who might care, Sets are designed for more targeted sharing. Facebook could eventually monetize the feature by offering a special button on product ads that save a business’ items to your Sets.

Facebook has found success by building good-enough versions of competitors’ products, like Instagram Stories, and is currently assaulting other tech giants like YouTube with Facebook Watch and Yelp with its restaurant discovery and food ordering options. It’s unlikely that Sets will displace Pinterest, but if Facebook can stunt its growth while helping users with self-expression, that may be sufficient.