Do you like? Test-driving the new Facebook social plugins

The nice thing about having your own web site (and perhaps a curse as well) is that you never tire of tinkering with it.

So I decided yesterday to insert a few of the new Facebook social plugins into the Byte Level Research website.

Below is a screen shot from the “activity feed” on the home page:

And here are some initial thoughts:

  • Facebook makes it easy. I read that there are 50,000 sites now using these plugins, after only a week. I can see why. It took me less than an hour to insert four “like” buttons and an activity feed on the home page.
  • I had no idea people were “liking” Byte Level products already. it wasn’t until I installed the activity panel that I realized how many people had been forwarding links through Facebook to the Report Card, the Country Codes of the World Map, etc. And some of the Facebook “likes” were in French, which is also pretty exciting.
  • When I “liked” something my picture came up and that was, well, weird. See below, from the Eye Chart page. I can turn the photo feature off, and may at some point. But the larger point is that it’s a little strange to see your name, face and the names and faces of your networked friends all displayed next to the product. It’s like web page graffiti — and I have very mixed feelings about it. But I’m going to stick with this for a month and see if it grows on me.

  • Speaking of weird, one of the plugins is called Facepile. I think I’ll pass on that one for now.
  • I’m glad there’s no “dislike” button. I have no hesitation letting people “like” the Country Codes of the World map, but I don’t think I’d be inserting a “dislike” button if Facebook make one available. They haven’t, yet.
  • What’s the impact on performance? Every additional plugin and line of code on a web page degrades performance slightly. Will the benefits of these plugins outweigh their performance hit?
  • Do people care? Finally, Do we really want to know how many people “liked” a product? Facebook reported that the Like button was clicked more than a billion times network-wide over a 24-hour period, so I’m guessing that people do. I’ve certainly clicked on my share of Like buttons on Facebook over the past year.

So like I said, I’m going to test this out for awhile and see if it grows on me. Naturally, there are a host of questions that this little experiment raises, like wondering if I’m just another enabler of Facebook’s efforts to take over the Internet. Like wondering if these plugins are nothing more than web page graffiti. Like wondering if I spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

UPDATE: After a few days I’ve decided to remove the Activity Feed. I noticed a performance hit and I felt it was distracting.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

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