They deny it, but we all suspect that the new “friends list” is more than just a randomly generated list of people that you are friends with. Facebook would like you to think that this list is generated based on who you’ve recently “interacted” with or who you have had past involvement with. However, this DOES NOT explain why people who have never interacted with you routinely show up in this spot. Sure, maybe it’s just coincidence. Maybe Facebook’s code just spits these people out without concern. However, this is highly unlikely regarding how much thought goes into the design of a site like Facebook.
So, why do we think that this box shows who is viewing your profile. For these reasons:
Remember the 6 Person Box?
We all remember when the “friends” box was just a tiny box to the left filled with 6 people. There was no doubt in our minds that this list WAS randomly generated. There was NO WAY the people that showed up in this box were viewing your profile. Juxtapose an old picture of one of these boxes to the new design and this becomes abundantly apparent.
It’s Good For Business
Is Facebook going to put random people in this box. No, they are going to put people in here that are more likely to increase your involvement on the site, thus optimizing conversion, keeping you exposed to ads, and making Facebook your virtual home base. The more time you spend on the website the more money they generate.
With this box you can see the people you have the most interaction with (there is no arguing this point), and it’s a way to quickly navigate to the people you are most interested in. Or possibly the people that are most interested in you…
Either way, it helps create better user interaction, and it keeps people on the website to make Facebook money.
Facebook has an abundance of information on their hands including people’s interactions, likes, profile information, and viewing behavior. They are going to data mine the fuck out of this information, find connections and exploit those connections to keep you on their site longer (assuming they have a good CMO). If they didn’t use this information they would be foolish. Some of this information is perfect for playing matchmaker, and what would be a more efficient way of subtly telling people who they should be interacting with than placing them in a nice 200×700 pixel frame on the left side of the screen with big profile picture to pique your interest. There is a REASON this box is so much bigger than the old one.
Our best guess is that many things go into an algorithm determining who shows up in this box:
- Indirect interaction -Profile viewing behavior (both yours and you’re friends)
- Direct Interaction -Messaging, wall posts, and likes
- Similarities in profile information such as groups, activities, and other affiliations.
- Many other variables
When you think about it Facebook will NEVER admit it if this is the case. They have too much riding on the fact that people CAN”T figure out who sees their profile. In fact, if there were one way some maniacal coding genius could take down a giant like Facebook, it would be to generate some way of viewing this information. If everyone knew that their borderline stalker-like profile viewing behavior was visible to everyone on Facebook, EVERYONE would be too afraid to peruse profiles in their normal manner. Facebook would turn into a ghost town and their death grip on the internet would be destroyed.
Despite all of this, they WANT to tell you. It’s like a big secret that you want to tell someone, but can’t. The best you can do is give subtle indications and hope they get the point. However, you’ll deny it if anyone ever questioned your ability to keep the secret.