Option to hide friends list
Short, concise description of the idea
A checkbox on editinfo.bml that, when checked, hides a user's "Friends" list from public viewing on the user's profile page.
Full description of the idea
LiveJournal currently offers an option for users to hide the "Friends of" list that appears on their userinfo from anyone who is not logged in as that user. A similar option could be offered for the "Friends" list.
This would not prevent User B from seeing on his or her own "Friends of" list that she or he had been added to User A's "Friends" list. (This is consistent with the existing "Hide 'Friends of' list" option, which does not remove your name from other peoples' "Friends" list.) It would prevent anyone but User A from seeing a complete list of User A's friends. Of course, this option would be optional and would only take effect if the box on userinfo is checked. It would default to being off, just like the "Hide 'Friends of' list" option.
(Just as User A hiding her or his "Friend Of" list does not prevent User A's name from appearing in User B's "Friends" list, User A hiding his "Friends" list would not prevent User B's name from appearing in User A's "Friend Of" list.)
Also, it is also currently possible to view another users' Friends page (e.g. anyone can go to http://www.livejournal.com/users/kelvena/friends and see what my friends are up to). Turning on the "Hide friends list" option would cause others users to receive some sort of "Sorry, you are not authorized to view this user's Friends page" if they attempted your friends page. (This would be very similar to the "Sorry, you are not authorized to view this protected entry" page.) This would be necessary for the "Hide friends list" option to have any value -- otherwise, someone could simply go to your Friends page and see who you had listen as a friend!
A similar but more complicated idea was suggested already (to have "Secret Friends") and not met with much enthusiasm. However, my proposal offers a simpler solution to the same problem. It would not entail creating any new types of friends - which entails more work on the developers' part, and is more confusing for users - but simply duplicating some existing functionality.
An ordered list of benefits
General promotion of privacy. Users should be able to choose what information about themselves they make public.
"I don't want people to know who I'm telling my secrets to." Some users choose to make all of their posts available to only people on their Friends list for privacy / personal reasons. However, the list of people who reading your posts is still publically available, which in many ways defeats the purpose of having locked posts. The ability to hide one's "Friends" list would enable a user to make friends-only posts without other people wanting to know why the user considers certain people friends or pressuring the user's friends to reveal the information in the user's locked posts.
Many users may associate with several groups of people, and may not want one group of people (especially family members) knowing about the other types of people that he or she considers friends. Again, it is impossible for User A to lock a post to someone without publically listing that person as a friend. Other people that can see that User B is User A's friend, go to User B's profile, and look at User B's interests and journals - which User A may not wish to be publically associated with. Currently, the only way for User A to prevent this situation is to remove User B from her or his friends list, which prevents User A from making friends-only posts to User B.
A hidden friends list would hinder the efforts of stalkers, who can look at a targeted user's friends list and find other people to go through to harass the target.
Some users prefer to remain anonymous by not placing personal information on their user info page. However, the "Friends" list cannot be hidden, and the friends that a user has can often identify who he or she is. The ability to hide one's "Friends" list would better enable users to remain truly anonymous. (Yes, one answer to this particular problem is "Don't add anyone to your friends list" but A) this makes reading other people's journals inconvenient and B) prevents the user from making friends-only posts.)
Consistency in the options offered to users. A user can hide other personal information -- e-mail address, "Friend Of" list, location -- why not be able to hide the "Friends" list?
An ordered list of problems/issues involved
LiveJournal is a community-oriented site, and users often find new friends from existings' friends friend lists -- e.g. "A friend of my friend". Allowing users to hide their friends list could make it more difficult for other users to be introduced to new friends.
A hidden friends list could make friends-related support requests difficult for the support staff to field. Of course, a user could simply turn off the "Hide friends list" option for the duration of the support request.
An organized list, or a few short paragraphs detailing suggestions for implementation
Duplicate the "Hide 'Friends of' list" checkbox functionality for the "Friends of" list.
Add a check when any /users/username/friends page is loaded to see if the user does not have the "Hide 'Friends' list" enabled. If the user does have the option enabled, check to see if the computer attempting to view the page is logged in as the owner of the journal - and if the would-be viewer is not the journal owner, display a "Sorry, you are not authorized to view this user's Friends page" page instead of the actual friends page.