Facebook to let users create public versions of pages

Facebook to let users create public versions of pages

FACEBOOK Inc., operator of the world’s largest social-networking site, is redesigning its service to let people create public profile pages and allow celebrities and businesses to reach users more easily.

In the next few months, customers will be able to share more information on pages that are available to a wider group of people, the company said. Facebook users are currently only allowed to have 5,000 contacts, known as friends. That limits how many people can see their content.

Facebook also will let public figures and companies such as CNN quickly blast information to users, starting in the next few weeks. Those groups haven’t been able to send out information with Facebook’s news-feed feature, which people typically use to keep tabs on their friends. The changes allow organizations and celebrities to provide the same quick updates.

 “They can start interacting with people in this new way,” Chris Cox, Facebook’s director of product development, said at a news conference in Palo Alto, California. Previously “they had a bunch of static content.”

Google Inc.’s YouTube, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the Oprah Winfrey Show have begun testing the new features, Facebook said.

The company also will offer a new home page next week for personal profiles. It lets users easily filter content and get faster updates on friends.

Facebook, which has more than 175 million users worldwide, passed News Corp.’s MySpace last year as the biggest social-networking site.

Facebook is taking advantage of its growing audience to sell more advertising, which runs on users’ home pages. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive officer, said the additional information provided by the new features could help better target ads to users.

Facebook struck an agreement in 2006 to show some ads sold by Microsoft Corp., part of a $240-million investment by that company. Zuckerberg, a Harvard University dropout, founded Facebook in 2004.

Last month Facebook created a set of principles to protect users’ content and privacy. The company drew criticism after a policy change let it keep customers’ photos and content, even if users closed their Facebook accounts. (Bloomberg)