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Facebook lets users have separated social, er, Circles

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Facebook slotted a new feature into the ubiquitous social network yesterday that immediately got the blogosphere arguing over whether the company was copying Google+ and its people-curating Circles function.

Zuckerberg's people were quick to point out that Facebook was here way before Google got into the networking biz.

"Lists have existed for several years, but you've told us how time-consuming it is to organise lists for different parts of your life and keep them up to date," said Facebook's Blake Ross in a blog post announcing the tweak, which is an optional function.

He said the Palo Alto-based company had created something it dubbed "Smart Lists" to help its stalkerbase refine what they share with whom on the site.

"Want to see posts from your closest friends? Or perhaps you'd like to share a personal story with your family — without also telling all your co-workers," said Ross.

"With improved Friend Lists, you can easily see updates from and share with different lists of friends."

In other words, users have now been given pre-defined templates for how they share their Facebook profile with others on the network.

There are also separate "close friends" and "acquaintances" lists, allowing users to see less or more of individuals they are connected to on Facebook. It will also creepily offer suggestions for which "friends" should see what on a user's profile.

Google+, which only launched in late June, is Mountain View's latest attempt to get in on the social networking game. It offers a thing called Circles, a platform that, in effect, allows users to create networks within the network, allowing them to keep groups of acquaintances separate from one another.

Previously Facebook let its users get on with the business of working out how to block or restrict certain "friends" from viewing the content they shared on the site.

Now it has made that option simpler by creating lists that clearly define who should be shuffled into which pack on the site.

Meanwhile, Facebook confirmed via an email to its users that it is testing a feature that will switch off individual email notifications.

It still wants to spam people's email accounts, however.

"Instead, we'll send you a summary only if there are popular stories you may have missed," said Facebook. "You can turn individual emails back on and restore all your original settings at any time."

This means, even for those people who had turned off every individual email notification sent by Facebook, that another tick box has been automatically filled in for all users that states the following:

"You are currently receiving only important updates and summary emails about stories you may have missed. You can uncheck the box to restore your original settings and customise individual email notifications."

Those not interested in receiving such a summary can switch off the option by going into their Account Settings and clicking on the Notifications side menu.

Separately, Facebook confirmed to The Register – but surprisingly not in an official blog post – that Messenger, a separate app linking messages in Facebook with texts, chats and emails on a mobile phone, is now available to users in the UK. ®

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