The operators of the online hangout Facebook wanted to help users save time by highlighting changes their friends make to their personal profile pages. Instead, the new feature has drawn complaints from thousands of its users and even threats of a boycott.

The backlash is over Facebook’s decision this week to deliver automated, customized alerts known as News Feeds about a user’s closest friends, classmates and colleagues. Users who log on might instantly find out that someone they know has joined a new social group, posted more photos or begun dating their best friend.