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Making connections on Facebook

More changes are underway at Facebook, the social networking site with over 400 million members. On Monday, the company introduced several new features that are intended to increase the number of connections that users make on the site.

The first new feature, known as Community Pages, will allow users to learn more about a topic or experience – whether it's cooking or learning a new language – and also see what friends and others in the Facebook community are saying about that topic.

It appears that initially most of the information will be sourced from Wikipedia but a blog post suggests that Facebook will be looking to include user contributions at a later date. Facebook did not provide any information on whether members will be able to set up their own Community Pages or if topics will be pre-selected.

The second change, which will more directly affect everyday users, is what Facebook is calling Connected Profiles. When the change is activated, users will see a pop-up window containing a group of suggested Pages, which you have the option of connecting to. For example, it could be a Page for your college or current city, or a Page that matches your stated interests.

You can opt to link to all of Facebook's suggestions, pick and choose the ones you want, or click "ask me later". Once you make your choice, any text you previously had for education, current city, or the relevant interest will be replaced by links to these Pages.

Adding connections beyond this pop-up box is where the new "Like" function comes in. If you want to connect to a Page, click the Like option on that Page, which replaces the "Become a fan" option. To remove a connection, return to the Page and click "Unlike'" or remove it in your profile editor.

Facebook stresses that Pages are public. While connecting to them does not make your profile public, like now you will still show up when non-friends visit the relevant Pages. The only way to ensure that outsiders can't see you on a Page is to not connect to that Page in the first place.

Facebook is also making some welcome changes to the privacy settings, including adding a "Friends, Tags, and Connections" setting that will let you specify who can see what connections. There will also now be an option to hide your friends' list on your profile from your friends.

Facebook will roll out the changes gradually over the next few days.

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