Conceptually, both of these features are similar. Both give you the
ability to create filters and add people to them. Example: you could
create a List called Family. You could then add your family members
you’ve friended. However, that’s about where their similarities end.
Groups are a way of creating filters for viewing your wall. Say
that you created another group called Work Colleagues, and added
people to it. When viewing your Wall, you could then select the Work
Colleagues group to only see their posts. Groups are also shared with
your Friends – they, too, can see these filtered posts in this way.
Groups, though, do have a security setting:
- Open. Everyone can see the members of this Group and read its
- Closed. Members are public but the content is private.
- Secret. Members and content is private.
And Groups have customizations. You can add a specific picture to
represent the Group, and, you can select which members are admins to
the Group. You can also set up an SMTP (email) for the group so that
stuff emailed to the custom address will automatically post to its own
wall. In these ways, Groups almost look like Pages except you can’t
have those security settings.
Lists are a bit different. Using a List, you can also create an
object you can add people to. As a matter of fact, this interface for
adding people to a List is much more sophisticated than the one for
Groups. But it’s not used as a filter against your Wall. Instead, it’s
used for security settings on your posts and for your Trust Settings.
Example: if you were to create a List called Circle of Trust and add
people you really, really trust to it, you could then select that List
when you write a status update by selecting the Lock, hit Customize;
then select Specific People; then start typing the name of your List –
like, Circle of Trust. Only these people could then see your update.
You can also tie Lists to Facebook’s Privacy Settings. In the
upper-right hand Account drop-down, select Privacy Settings, select
Custom, then Customize Settings. On the Things I Share List, you can
then follow similar instructions as above to restrict these specific
items to your List.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that when you create a Group and add
people to it, that fact is broadcasted to your wall… even if you flag
the group as Secret, which seems kinda counter-intuitive. No such
notification happens when you create Lists or add people to Lists.
Conclusion: Too bad that Facebook didn’t see it fit to combine
these options because they seem really similar to me, too, and the
word ‘Groups’ also describes mailing lists in Facebook, so it adds
just another layer of conceptual complexity. But there it is.