The Evolution of Like

Not since the days of our high school crushes has the idea of “Like” been so complex.  Thanks to Facebook, we’re liking items everyday (be they our friend’s status updates, comments, and photos or a favorite band’s Facebook page or website.)  Facebook has been moving toward using “Like” as a standard action.  For example, where you used to be a fan of a page, you now “Like” it. Facebook has also been suggesting that publishers use a Like button on their sites instead of the classic Share button, as it lets them tie into the Open Graph.

An article posted today in Mashable suggests that we “say goodbye to the Share button because the Like button is taking over.”  As the article explains, Facebook has updated the Like button to perform the tasks of the Share button. Previously, when I liked a web page that had an Open Graph button, the contribution to my news feed looked just like it does when I like a Facebook page:

However, when I liked Mashable’s article, it look like I had used the Share button or posted a link to my wall:

Sure, it looks jazzier, and it certainly stands out more amidst all the posts on my wall, but what has really changed?

 

What’s new for users?

As I’ve already shown above, using the new Like button looks different on my Wall, but has my interaction with the website and my Facebook friends really changed?

The answer is ultimately no.   While the post and the affinity behind it are now easier to see (and easier for my friends to understand), I’m sharing the same information with the website that I did by using the old version of the Like Button. Furthermore,  my friends are still one click away from the page that I felt a desire to “Like”.

As far as I can tell, the script for the Share button is still functioning, and it’s still included in many social sharing plug-ins and widgets.  As long as those two conditions continue, there will still be a status quo option for people who don’t want to change how they share content directly from a non-Facebook site to their Wall.  Even if the Share button goes away, and you don’t want to share a “Like” for the page you’re viewing, you can always just copy the URL and post it as a link on your wall.

 

What’s new for publishers?

The best news for publishers, I think, is that the changes are on Facebook’s end, so you don’t even have to change your iframe or FBML code.  Of course, since more info about your page is being shared, publishers ought to double-check the Open Graph properties of their sites so that they are sure the new Like button is sharing the right thing! (Now watch, my meta tags will be wrong just so I look foolish!)

Why should a publisher prefer a Like button over a Share button, now that the posts they create are virtually identical?  As the Facebook Developer site explains on its Like Button page, the button lets a page interact with Facebook and its users in the same capacity as a Facebook Page does. (That’s a pretty powerful opportunity. You get access to your followers’ Walls while controlling your own message and visual branding!)  Facebook explains that “your page will appear in the ‘Likes and Interests’ section of the user’s profile, and you have the ability to publish updates to the user.”  For a publisher, that beats a single mention on a user’s wall, and it opens the door to easier continued engagement between a site and its visitors.

 

What are my thoughts about the changes?

When I shared the Mashable story on my Facebook Wall (by clicking on the page’s Like button, of course), the responses from my friends ranged from bemused to bearish.  Part of the response was due to the usual frustration whenever Facebook randomly makes changes to their user interface and doesn’t explain them to their users (as far as  I can tell, Facebook has made no mention of the update, leaving users to find out about the new feature from sites like Mashable and CNET.)  Other complaints were about cluttering up a user’s Wall or about muddying the difference between “Like” and “Share”.

Will this change add more full posts (with thumbnails and blurbs) to my wall? Sure, but so will my friend’s pictures of their pets and their babies.  Facebook collapses multiple sharings of the same link into a single post with multiple sharers’ comments below it.  As far as I can tell from a few hours of experience, the updated Like button shares behave in the same way. This will at least reduce the extra real estate that Likes now take up on your Wall.

As far as muddying sharing options, I think that this change actually streamlines things.  No longer do users have to Like and Share a post if they want it to catch their friends’ eyes.  Furthermore, it creates a clearer social recommendation from the user to his or her friends.  As a blogger (and therefore a publisher in my own right), I’m also pleased that it’s been made easier for visitors to interact with my content and share it with their friends.

What do you think, and are you willing to “Like” this post and share it on your Wall for me?

 

The thumbnail photo is by Chris Koehler via Flickr.  Thanks for sharing!

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