Facebook’s increasingly ubiquitous ‘Like’ button is getting a new friend: the Send button. Click on a webpage that has the Send button integrated, and you’ll be prompted to share it with any of your Facebook Groups, your Facebook friends, or any standard email address. In other words, where the Like button is designed to let you quickly share content with all of your Facebook friends, the Send button is for sharing with a subset of them.
Site designers are groaning right now (they have yet another sharing widget to integrate), but it’s a logical step for Facebook — there are certainly times when you want to share links with a handful of friends instead of your News Feed, and this gives you one less reason to fire up your non-Facebook email account. 50 sites are launching with the feature.
In addition to the new Send button, Facebook is adding a handful of features to its existing Groups product, which was overhauled last October. First is the introduction of photo albums for Groups. Before now it’s been possible to upload a single photo to a group, and now you’ll be able to upload a whole set. These photo albums are unusual because they’re walled within the Group — only other group members will be able to see them (even tagged photos aren’t visible to people on the outside).
The second addition is integration with Facebook Questions, which re-launched last month. Now you can pose a question that’s contained within the group.
Finally, and most important, is a new setting that will require Group administrators to approve any new members who have been invited to join the group. Up until now anyone within a Facebook Group was able to invite any of their friends (the idea was that you’d be violating the ‘social contract’ if you started inviting people who didn’t belong). But now Facebook recognizes that there are some groups that should be more private, so you can require admin approval.
Provided it gets broad distribution (which seems a given), the Send button will probably lead to a boost in Groups usage. It’s always been easy to share links within Groups, but this lowers the bar even further because you don’t have to leave the page you’re reading — you can imagine people using the button to share book reviews with their book club, close friends sharing new ideas for travel destinations, and so on.
And while ‘Send’ may not sound especially exciting given how long other sharing widgets have been around, this is yet another step in Facebook’s mission to reinvent email with their own “modern messaging system“, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg called it. One by one, they’re integrating easy ways to complete tasks that have traditionally been done over email. Today’s launch — sending links to friends — is obviously a huge one, and you can be sure they have others in the works. One other email-replacing feature I’ve heard about (though I’m not sure they’re still working on it): a way to send a structured poll to a subset of your friends.
Facebook says that there are now 50 million Facebook groups, and while not all of these are active, it says that the majority of them are.