It's pretty timely considering this discussion on Techmeme prompted by Mark Cuban reaching the 5,000 Facebook friends limit.
Let's consider Mark Cuban's strategy on how he thinks about his Facebook friends:
"My new FB strategy is not exclusively about "friends" in the truest sense of the word. Its about three layers of "friends"
The first layer has my real friends. Those people who who I have actually met in real life and who I enjoy keeping in touch with. FB provides a great way to keep up with things with them via pictures, notifications, etc.
The 2nd layer is people who I have tangential connections to. They may just live in Dallas Fort Worth. They may be self proclaimed Mavs or MMA or movie fans, or in groups I'm in. For whatever reason there is something about them that I could connect to.
The 3rd layer is emerging as a very unique and interesting network in FB.
Its what I will call "The Power Layer." These are people who in whatever industry they are in , retain some level of power. Having them as FB friends, although very simple and non committal, gives me some level of access to them, and them to me. These are people that if they sent me a FB mail, i would certainly read and respond to , and I think they would do the same."
It's a good summary of how I certainly view my far smaller collection of 700 Facebook friends (image source).
"...we've built and launched Friend Lists. The new Friends page lets you create named lists of friends that you can use to organize your relationships whichever way works best for you. These private lists can be used to message people, send group or event invitations, and to filter updates from certain groups of friends.
This is just a start. Expect to see lots of new Friend Lists features in 2008 that will give you more control over the information you share on Facebook and who you share it with."
Now this is a Facebook feature we can all use and get behind, whether we have five or five thousand Facebook friends. Far more prosaic than Facebook Beacon, but perhaps a lot more useful for most Facebook users in the short run.
Update: As I started to use the Friend's List feature, thought I'd share a couple of impressions. Facebook has made it easy to create and edit private lists. The process of selecting and unselecting friends within a particular list, is also well implemented.
However, the current mode of showing only three friends per line to scroll through (with a side sroll bar) is pretty tedious to use, even with a modest collection of a few dozen friends.
Some of this is limited by the boundaries of the Facebook user interface, but the ability to see a large selection of one's friends and then quickly select and de-select into lists would be an appreciated tweak in the Friends List interface.