Comments are an important part of any blog, and what differentiates it as a media from a straight news story. In a lot of cases, the comments are the best bit – where the real discussion goes on, and where the cool kids hang out. Now Facebook are making a play for this valuable piece of online real estate.
Over the past couple of years, the social nature of Facebook has been shown by the speed with which its new socially connected “like” button that shows how many of your friends liked a page has been implemented across the web:
The thing that makes the like button so useful to website owners is that every person who clicks on it then promotes the web page they have just visited to all of their followers. This can be a big source of traffic, and the implied trust of a “liked” website means that traffic from Facebook can sometimes convert better than other channels.
Facebook have now taken the “like button” one step further with a new version comment system that they have rolled out as a plug in for WordPress. TechCrunch are currently trialling the system in place of Disqus, and this is what it looks like on their site:
There has been the option to use a Facebook log in to post comments for a while, but the big change with this version is that it is now more closely tied into Facebook. When a user posts a comment on a Facebook enabled Blog, that comment will appear in their Facebook stream.
In addition to that, responses to that comment are then shared across Facebook and the blog – so if a Facebook friend posts a response on your wall, it will also be included on the blog where you posted your comment, and vice versa.
What does it mean?
Well, for a start, it means that users of the system should start to get more comments on their blogs, and should also start to get more visibility. Rather than comments standing alone on the blog as they do at the moment, they will be republished on potentially thousands of Facebook streams leading to an increase in traffic and clicks.
The disadvantage is that there appears to be less control over the type of content that can be posted – moderation is more difficult from what I’ve seen. bear in mind though that since people are posting under their “real” identity rather than as anonymous, there should be less hardcore trolling being seen. Which is nice.
One thing that could be a BIG disadvantage, is that while the comments appear on your blog, they are held within an iFrame, which will have a big impact on their search engine visibility. That’s a bit of a trade-off though – potentially more traffic from one source at the expense of potentially less traffic from another.
This does tie in with the bigger issue of content ownership. Depending on the T&Cs of a blog, the ownership of any content within the comments would reside with either the writer or the blog owner. When the content is published via Facebook, the ownership of that content will reside elsewhere.
How Very Facebook…
One of the stated aims of Facebook is to open up the social graph more widely, and this is definitely a step in that direction, however the fact that they are using the leverage of their massive user base to claim an advantage over companies like DISQUS is likely to cause a little bit of a stink in certain areas of the online world. Most notably DISQUS’ offices.
Having a single log in to access multiple independent websites such as Facebook Connect, Windows Live, or the Twitter oAuth implementation is highly user friendly, and makes it easier to interact in a social world. From that perspective, Facebook taking on the comment system in this way is likely to be a generally positive thing for users.