Like Buttons Falling From the Sky

CNN announces what you should know about Facebook’s changes:

Buttons with the word “like” and a thumbs-up icon on them are going to start popping up all over the Internet [web]. By clicking one, you indicate that you find the content interesting, relevant or helpful. Basically, you would recommend it to a friend.

Before Wednesday, “like” buttons only were on Facebook. Now, they’ll be all over the place… When you click one, you post the item — whether it’s a blog post, photo or celebrity web page — to your Facebook news feed.

So how will this differ from what we have currently? For instance, how will it differ from things like the Retweet button and the social toolbar (featuring buttons for Tumblr, Facebook, Digg, and so on) found at the bottom of this post and on millions of other websites?

It will differ in three ways:

  1. The “like” button differs from a Facebook button in that it isn’t a gateway to the Facebook website; it’s a piece of the Facebook website stuck on other sites. Conceptually, this makes those sites “pages on Facebook,” and makes Facebook a dominant platform.
  2. Unlike with ordinary social buttons, you won’t have to enter a user name and password. If you’ve used Facebook recently, you’ll be able to click the “like” button on Joe’s website and have it show up in your Facebook news feed—no further action required. Again, the concept is that every site on the web is merely a page or section on Facebook; that Facebook, instead of a walled garden hidden from the web, is now the firmament on which the rest of the web rests.
  3. Finally—and here’s the part that freaks some people out—your friends’ faces will show up on websites where they’ve clicked the “like” button. Think about that. You’re on Joe’s website. You see your wife’s, girlfriend’s, and minister’s faces smiling at you from Joe’s website. The people who matter to you, and who you thought you had compartmentalized in the privacy of Facebook, a non-public-facing, password-protected website, are now out in the open. (Of course, they are out in the open to you. Achmed will see his friends, not yours. Still.)

So what will this Facebook’s redefinition mean, ultimately? No clue. But most of us, if we think about it, have seen Big Things like this come and go on the web. Remember when every third website required Microsoft Passport to unlock features or let you log in? And Mac and Linux users were angry, because the web is supposed to be an open platform, not a dominant vendor’s sandbox? Remember? Probably not. It was quite a big deal at the time, but almost nobody thinks about it now.

Just saying.