I have been a fan of Facebook friend lists for years. Before circles in Google+ made the idea of sharing with specific groups of friends on a social network popular, friend lists were available on Facebook to do essentially the same thing. Facebook users could create friend lists and use these lists to tweak the privacy level of their profile and status updates for specific groups of friends. Friend lists on Facebook are historically convoluted, being far too difficult to understand or implement. Following the invention of the widely praised and easier-to-use Google Circles, Facebook offers improved friend lists designed to make it easy for every Facebook user to create lists to choose who sees what information.

Facebook Improved Friend ListsFacebook announced on its blog that these new features will be rolling out to all users this week, despite a confusing announcement that appeared on some profiles last week. Facebook will automatically generate “smart lists” for users, which create themselves and stay up-to-date based on profile info. These lists will include your friends with whom you share something specific in common, like your place of work, school, family, or city. Other lists that can be created include Close Friends and Acquaintances lists, where you can see just the updates from your best friends, and see less from people you’re not as close to. Facebook will also continue to provide suggestions, a feature currently available to users of lists, but will be “better” according to the Facebook blog. Any and all of these lists can always be manually updated and customized.

Facebook is really making a step towards automating privacy for users by not only suggesting specific lists with whom you may want to share information, but also promoting the idea of a restricted list to completely block certain Facebook users from seeing your updates, unless they are public posts. This list could be beneficial for those who want to exclude people like their boss or ex-boyfriend from seeing any status updates.

For those who already use lists, such as myself, don’t worry; Facebook will not delete your existing lists. You can continue to create new lists as you would like. One notable changes is the inclusion of other names of users on your list when you share a post with that list, which is one of the few aspects of these new features that is contrary towards the move to more privacy. (Facebook explains this feature is for more “context.”)

Has your Facebook account been upgraded with Improved Friend lists? Let us know what you think of the new features in the comments below.