This week, Facebook is rolling out new changes to its Friends List feature. The update, titled Smart Lists, seems to be an improvement designed to combat the highly-praised Circles from Google+. But, what is so special about Facebook’s new change?

Friends Lists have been around for a few years but never saw much use due to the time-consuming nature of actually creating the list. Really, who wants to scroll through hundreds of friends and individually categorize them into specific groups? Sounds like a total pain to me. What’s more, there really wasn’t anything to do with a Friends List other than to filter your News Feed for content from those specific friends.

Now, Smart Lists aims to change all of that. Instead of requiring you to individually sort through your friends, Facebook will create a few lists for you, including one for people you work with, another for those your schoolmates, a third for those who live near your current city, and, lastly, one for your family. These lists will automatically update as you and your friends update their profiles. If you have created a few Lists in the past, they will not be deleted or overwritten. In fact, Facebook will even go so far as to suggest new friends for your personally created lists.

Another part of this new feature is the Close Friends list, denoted by a star on its icon. This list is for your very best friends: the ones who you want to see every single thing they are doing on Facebook in your News Feed. Facebook knows this is personal and will leave it up to you to put friends into this list. Additionally, your friends can also be categorized as Acquaintances, which will keep them out of your News Feed, except for important updates like an engagement or new child.

But, what is the purpose of these lists? First off, like the original Friends List, you can better filter your News Feed for specific content you’re looking for. Each list will have its own News Feed that is accessible from a dropdown menu at the top of the page.

The Smart Lists feature also eliminates one of the great advantages of Google+. With Circles, you can choose what small group of people you want to share your content with. Now, when posting anything to Facebook, you can select which list the post is visible to. So, for example, if you want to ask only your Close Friends to go out to dinner and not have anyone else see it, you can.

Personally, I think this is a great addition that substantially improves the usability of Facebook. Also, because the popular lists are automatically generated, it makes the drag and drops aspect of Google+ Circles seems time-consuming and somewhat gimmicky. Facebook has actually outdone Circles in another aspect in that it actually recommends who you put into lists. I’m sure Google will soon release an update to Circles that will recommend Circle members based on likeness, though. Let the back and forth innovation begin!

You can expect Smart Lists to come to your Facebook account in the very near future.

What do you think about this new feature? Do you think it is better than Google+ Circles?