There have already been many column inches (or pixels) devoted to the new implementation of the Facebook comments box plugin – some good, much bad.
We have seen Facebook extending their reach out to the rest of the web with likes, shares and instant personalisation so comments would appear to be the next logical step. As Rob Diana says “Facebook wants all of the conversation“ and many are asking if the sheer power of Facebook, due to number of registered users, could displace the likes of Disqus and draw more of the web into the Facebook universe.
The arguments about conversation ownership and fragmentation have been rattling on since the emergence of social media as a force du jour; so far there has been no simple way to gather and arrange conversation threads about the same topic from across the social web. With their commenting plugin Facebook are looking to gather comments in one location and do away with the fragmentation by removing the need for other avenues of conversation. The phrase “all roads lead to Facebook” has never seemed more true.
They will no doubt come under fire for trying to corner the comments market but it is hardly surprising that this be a target when you look at how the service operates in other areas. The ‘closed system’ criticisms have been leveled at them for some time and this is just another target.
Comments hosted directly on a blog are firmly within the control of the blog owner, useful in that regard but of little use outside of the blog itself. This is where services such as Disqus come in to play. Control is shared between the blog owner and the commenter and the ability to automatically tweet those comments or post them to other services, as well as being able to look up an individual commenter’s history, gives greater utility beyond the confines of the host blog.
Ease of use
Bloggers want traffic; bloggers want external links to their content to generate that traffic, otherwise why blog in the first place? Services which feed comments to other locations are extending the reach of any given site. By Facebook placing comments in the user’s feed a blog has ’potential’ exposure to 600 million people with minimal effort – just one line of code.
Anyone looking to implement Facebook comments will most likely have already placed a like button on their site and, consequently, have a Facebook App ID. This makes the addition of the comments box plugin a very simple affair; in fact, I added it to this blog last night as a test in less than 5 minutes. It was removed almost immediately and I shall explain why below.
Options (or lack of)
The single biggest drawback with Facebook comments as they stand is the lack of options for logging in or identifying yourself. Currently, the comments plugin only allow you to sign in using a Facebook or Yahoo account – Facebook say they are currently working with other services to extend these options.
Not everyone either has, or wants, an account with either of these providers or wants the comments they make associated with them. Unlike Disqus, the Facebook plugin does not give the option to identify yourself by entering the usual name/email/url triumvirate but this is open to abuse and, interestingly, Robert Scoble argues that the removal of anonymity in comments greatly improves their quality – he could be on to something.
The debate will no doubt rage as to whether a blog owner should dictate to their readers how they must use the site in order to participate in the conversation.
Having control of your comments is actually overrated until such time as you may want to change your commenting system. Disqus and Livefyre are currently the winners here in that the ability to implement or remove either system while retaining the comments is fairly straight forward. This is not the case with Facebook although TechCrunch indicate that an API is forthcoming to allow for the exporting of comments hopefully into a format that it easily transferable back to your blog.
As Facebook have already made it possible to export your profile (albeit, most likely, begrudgingly) it will probably not take too long for the export functionality to be implemented but if this is not done in a useable fashion can we justify the tie-in?
Blocking social media
Employers see the value in social media but the majority see it either as a time-sink or distraction and even a security risk (understandable in some professions) so sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked. Needless to say, this greatly reduces the effectiveness of Facebook as a commenting system.
Although Facebook commenting has been available for quite some time the official launch of this new version has reignited the discussion as to how far Facebook should go in their spread across the web and how far we should let them.
Image by AxsDeny