Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's been more than a year since Facebook introduced the Twitter-like "subscribers" feature, letting you follow public updates from people you aren't friends with.

Well, a year is a long time to go without changing any feature at the rapidly iterating social network
which announced Wednesday that it would be changing the name of your subscribers. At some point in the next few days, and henceforth, they will be known as followers.

Astute readers will notice that's exactly the word Twitter uses to describe folks who, er, follow you on that service. Conspiracy-minded readers might surmise that Facebook always intended to take the Twitter nomenclature outright, and simply waited a year to get everyone used to the feature before changing the name. Indeed, it's hard not to read something into the fact that this is rolling out on the same day that Instagram removed its support for pictures within tweets.

On the other hand, "followers" just makes a lot more sense. Subscriptions are something we tend to associate with payment, after all. And if there's one message Facebook is trying to get across amidst the whole controversy over promoted posts, it's that the service is free and always will be (as it likes to remind you when you sign up.) Having subscribers placed so prominently on every profile page might dilute that message.