Facebook Letting Users Show Profiles to Outsiders

Facebook, the social-networking site that has enjoyed explosive growth in new members over the past three months, said it plans to let users tell the rest of the world how to find them on the site.

Starting later on Wednesday, Facebook will begin notifying members they have a choice over whether to keep their listings private or to allow Facebook to make their name and profile picture available when outsiders search the site.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based site has grown to 39 million members, up 62.5 percent from 24 million in late May.

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By publicizing member profiles, Facebook could attract a new wave of users. Unlike most sites on the Web, Facebook has previously denied access by search services to information on the site.

But after notifying users over the next 30 days of its plans to open up basic profile listings of its members, Facebook plans to begin allowing sites like Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO) or others to "crawl," or index, its public member profiles.

Early next month, non-members of Facebook will be able to type the names of friends or acquaintances into a search box on Facebook's home page at http://www.facebook.com to see if they have public profiles on Facebook in order to contact them.

But the move could still prove controversial among some members who prize the privacy protections Facebook offers relative to more open sites. Many members have criticized Facebook policy changes.

A year ago, Facebook weathered a privacy storm among students disturbed by changes that exposed users' postings to their friends.

More recent changes that drew in more adults have also provoked concern among the site's core student base that parents and authority figures can monitor their activity.