Some comments about comments

By BroadVision on March 08, 2011

A lot of buzz about this the last few days: it was just announced that Facebook will be allowing sites to start using its comments system instead of their own. What does this mean?


1) If you’re logged into Facebook, you can comment on any site that’s implemented Facebook comments without having to sign in again. Ok, that’s kind of cool.

2) Your comments on said site can be quickly posted to your Facebook wall, if you so choose. This is already available now, of course. But…

3) Because all this is tied together, your real identity will show on the website next to your comment. This includes your name, profile photo, and a link to your Facebook page. Hm. And…

4) Anyone who replies to your comment, whether on the public site or your Facebook page, will have their reply cross-posted automatically to the other medium. So if a friend replies on your Facebook wall, their comment will automatically show on the site you originally posted the comment to, and vice versa.

I don’t like this idea very much, and I’m not alone. Sure, this will cut down on spam and potentially insensitive/inappropriate comments from internet trolls, but that kind of stuff comes with the territory. If you want to be open, you need to be ready to moderate as needed. While this whole cross-posting/multi-channel/single-sign-in identity thing may sound cool, it’s really just good for Facebook and the sites they’re working with. More potential “likes”, shares, and distribution for content these sites are trying to push, and in turn Facebook gets to obtain even more information about you and target you based on sites you’re visiting.

Some sites including TechCrunch implemented Facebook comments as a test last week, and noted a reduction in spam/nasty comments, but also a reduction in the number of comments overall (see related reading below).

A lot of people are already skeptical about Facebook’s privacy and what they’re sharing with third parties. So I find it a little disturbing that I could comment on a friend’s wall post and have my words, profile information, photo, and the direct link to my page all displayed publicly without my knowledge. Presently when you’re commenting on Facebook, you’re ok with it because you know it’s a comment on Facebook. If this opens up, it has the potential to completely change the way people interact on social and public sites.

Steve Cheney (again, see related reading below), says it very plainly, and quite well: “Face it, authenticity goes way down when people know their 700 friends, grandma, and five ex-girlfriends are tuning in each time they post something on the Web.”

I can’t agree more. If you don’t know who’s going to see what you’re saying, or likewise, if you know that your true identity is going to be displayed in a public place next to what you’re saying and it’s going to be seen by a bunch of people you don’t know all over the world, you’re less likely to be open and say what you really want to.

Some people could say: “Well Yasean, if all this Facebook stuff bugs you so much, why keep using it? Just get rid of it.” I could do that, but I think the point many are trying to make is that we signed up for Facebook when it was a social network. You know, connect with friends, family, old acquaintances, etc. I love that part about Facebook and after so many years of being on it, extracting myself from that online network would be erasing a huge part of my everyday life (whoa). But it’s kind of scary because I see the company moving towards trying to monopolize the social web, which would create a paradox – as Steve says, “Facebook’s insistence that you have one identity across the Web is both short-sighted and asinine, and people I talk to are starting to realize this. Fact is, one social network will not rule the Web… People are simply way too social to allow that.”


PS – some people aren’t aware of this, but Facebook doesn’t have you browsing securely by default. If you’re on Facebook and the URL shows “http” instead of “https”, you should switch your account preferences to browse securely by following the directions here. This was just rolled out in January 2011.

Related reading:

Steven Cheney/BusinessInsider — How Facebook is Killing Your Authenticity

Geoff Spick/CMSWire – Facebook Offers Its Comment System to Any Website