It's a modern-day dilemma: You really want your Facebook friends to see that wild party photo of you wearing bunny ears. But you're not so keen on explaining it to your mother-in-law.
Well, Facebook aims to make life easier.
Beginning Wednesday, the social network will make it easier to share photos, posts and links with smaller, isolated groups of people. While the site has allowed users to separate their friends into lists since 2007, this option took quite a bit of work and only a small fraction of Facebook users took advantage of it.
Now, Facebook will automatically group your friends based on whether they live near you, went to your school or work with you. You can read posts or share updates with specific groups instead of dozens, or hundreds, of "friends" at a time. Facebook will use the colleges, workplaces and geographic locations that users share on the site to organize people into groups. Called "smart lists," the feature is optional to use, and the lists are customizable.
"Users don't really want to spend a lot of time creating and maintaining friend lists," said Naomi Gleit, the director of product at Facebook who worked on the feature.
In addition, you can create your own friend groups with as few or as many as you would like, based around hobbies, work projects or relatives, for example.
Listing people as "close friends," meanwhile, will ensure that you will see the posts and photos from the dozen or so friends you care about the most. Updates from these people will feature more prominently in your news feed and you can opt to receive email notifications every time they post something on Facebook, Gleit said.
Conversely, those categorized as "acquaintances" will feature less prominently on your Facebook page, and you will see just big news, such as marriages and new babies.
Facebook's latest move takes a page from Google Plus, the fledgling social network launched this summer by the online search leader. Google's service so far has not threatened to unseat Facebook as the world's biggest online social network. But its sleek design and innovative, privacy-focused features piqued the interest of many Facebook users and critics, helping to foster healthy competition among these Silicon Valley neighbors.