Facebook gives permalinks to individual comments, hides potential spam

Facebook now assigns permanent links to all comments on the site and hides spam comments rather than just marking them with a darker background. The company announced the improvements in a post on its Facebook + Journalists page.

With the addition of permalinks, users can share a direct link to any comment. When users visit the link, the comment will appear at the top of the page and will briefly appear highlighted in yellow. Previously there was no way to do this, and it could be difficult to find a particular comment among a thread of dozens or sometimes hundreds of others. Permalinks can be accessed by clicking the timestamp of a comment.

Facebook added permalinks to comments in its plug-in for third-party sites last year, but didn’t do this for the main site. Whether this was an issue of scale or lack of demand is unclear. However, with the increase in Facebook activity among public figures, more public conversations are happening on the site and being able to link to comments directly is important. On Twitter, for example, every tweet has a unique URL, making it easy to refer back to specific parts of a thread.

Other features might not be necessary when users interact with their friends on the social network, but as they engage with pages and popular people who allow subscribers, the deficiencies of comments on Facebook.com become more apparent. For example, Facebook doesn’t thread comments or sort them by relevancy on the site as it does with its plug-in. On Facebook.com, all comments are presented in a single thread. There is no way to clearly and directly respond to a comment from another user. Admins can @ tag people who have commented on a post, but users can only tag the names of their friends. (In Facebook groups, users can tag anyone in the group even without being connected as friends.) Comments are presented in order of when they were posted. However, the Facebook comments plugin used by websites including this one shows relevant comments from friends, friends of friends and the most liked or active discussion threads above others.

Comments on Facebook.com do have spam detection. Potential spam comments are not visible to other users, but they used to show to admins with a darker grey background. This would catch moderators’ eyes so they could delete the comment, block the user or unmark the item as spam. Now potential spam will be hidden behind an ellipsis. Page owners can click the ellipsis to see the comments and take action on them.

[Update 3/30/12 3:01 p.m. PT - Vadim Lavrusik, journalist program manager at Facebook, tells us this change is for public comments on personal Timelines that have the subscribe feature enabled, not pages.]

Facebook redesigns permalinks to match Timeline, adds buttons for Like, subscribe

Facebook updated the design of the permanent link page for individual posts to reflect the look and feel of Timeline this week. It also added a prominent Like button for pages and a subscribe button for users who allow subscribers.

Every post on Facebook has a unique URL that displays the content by itself. This page, called a permalink, can be accessed by clicking the timestamp of a post. Previously Facebook showed this content on a white background, but with the change to Timeline, the design became outdated. Now content displays on a light blue background. Interestingly, this also changes the background of Facebook ads and other modules. It’s unclear whether this will affect clickthrough rate in any way.

Also significant is the addition of Like and subscribe buttons for posts from pages and people that users are not connected to. This was not previously a feature of permalink pages, but the change could lead pages to gain more Likes and people to gain new subscribers. For now, this only applies to link and text-only posts, not photos or posts using Facebook Questions.

Facebook introduces interests lists to organize News Feed by topics

Facebook today announced that users will be able to group pages and public figures into “interest lists” so that they can filter their News Feed by topic.

We spotted this feature last week and suggested it would be another challenge to Twitter, which offers a similar list capability. Facebook users have long been able to create lists to organize their friends, but there hasn’t been an option to group pages until today.

Facebook says users will see an “Add Interests” link in their left-hand bookmarks in coming weeks. From there, users can subscribe to lists from other users or create their own. Interest lists can include pages, subscriptions and friends. The top stories from each interest will appear in News Feed with a link to read more posts.

When users view a list, it appears as a filtered version of News Feed, similar to how people can view individual friend lists. The difference is that users can share and subscribe to each other’s interest lists if they make them available to friends or the public. Users can also create lists that only they can see. There are additional controls for users to select what type of stories to include or exclude in the feed. For example, you can select to see only photos from a page or only music and videos from a public figure.

As we noted last week, Facebook has been aggressively pursuing the “interest graph” — the relationship between people and topics. Many have pointed to Twitter as beating Facebook in this area, but with the subscribe feature and now interest lists, the social network is catching up.

It’s too early to tell, but interest lists could change how people view and interact with stories from brand pages. If users see posts among others on the same topic, they might be more engaged than when they see these posts among others from friends and unrelated pages. It also means users don’t have to Like pages in order to see updates from them. This raises questions about how ads will be targeted depending whether a user Likes a page or subscribes to it.

Still, interest lists are likely to be a power user feature. In 2010, Facebook said only 5 percent of users created friend lists, which launched in 2007. With the ability to subscribe to interest lists created by others, however, more users might adopt the feature. The company is also likely to promote the feature heavily in sidebars and other areas, as it has done with “People to subscribe to.”

[Update 3/8/12 11:14 a.m. PT - Facebook is already highlighting interest lists created by public figures. For example "Cast of Glee" created by Ryan Seacrest, "Washington Post Staff" created by journalist Mark Luckie and "NFL Players" by ESPN Adam Schefter.]

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Facebook starts verifying popular accounts

Facebook will allow a small number of public figures to verify their accounts beginning today, a spokesperson from the company confirms.

Users with verified accounts will appear more often in “People To Subscribe To” recommendations on the site, but unlike on Twitter and Google+, there will be no visual indication that a profile is official. These users will also have the option to display their more well-known pseudonyms, if applicable. For example, Curtis Jackson could choose to go by his stage name 50 Cent across the site, instead of displaying it as an alternate name as he does now. (See image below.)

Facebook says users with a large number of subscribers will see a notification to verify their accounts. Not everyone who allows subscribers will see this option, and for now, users cannot request to be verified.

What this does

For Facebook, verifying accounts seems to be about improving its recommendations systems. Recommendation modules around the site have been key to the growth of the social network’s new subscribe feature. This will ensure that Facebook is presenting users with the real profiles of people they’re in which interested.

Serving quality recommendations and being flexible about names helps Facebook compete with Twitter as a platform for asymmetrical relationships. Public figures who are known by pseudonyms will appreciate the option to display that name more prominently. A verified user’s birth name will still be shown in the About section of Timeline.

What this doesn’t do

Currently, there isn’t a way for users to definitively tell whether an account is the official profile of someone to whom they want to subscribe. There are already plenty of fake celebrity profiles on the site, and as more public figures begin to use Facebook, the number of impostors will likely increase. The company will need to do something to distinguish its verified accounts or work harder to eliminate the fakes.

Facebook didn’t offer details on how verification might affect search. Subscriber numbers do not currently seem to influence how a user is ranked in search. This is frustrating for users and could lead some people to connect with fake pages.

Facebook Platform Update: subscriptions, search, notifications

Developers can now request permission to access lists of users’ subscribers and who they subscribe to via the Graph API. Facebook announced this and a few other changes in a blog post Wednesday.

With read permissions for subscriptions, apps can create more personalized experiences for users. They can also track subscriptions over time. Since Facebook does not offer analytics for users who enable subscribers, people could turn to apps to track their growth. Klout might be another third-party that would be interested in incorporating subscriber data because the company could use this information as another factor to calculate a person’s influence.

Facebook also made improvements to the search function on its developer site. Search results now include bugs and technical Q&A from Stack Overflow. Developers can also filter results by type.

The “manage_notifications” permission is now required to read or manage users’ notifications. The change was announced in July 2011 and migration is complete, according to the blog post.

The social network is in the process of deprecating the old page Insights. It confirmed that the old Insights will be completely removed on Feb. 15.

For information about breaking changes going into affect on Feb. 1, visit the Facebook Developer Blog.

Facebook gaining edge with journalists using subscribe

Facebook’s heavy push of the subscribe feature has apparently paid off as thousands of journalists enabled subscribers after its launch in September, according to a note on the Journalists + Facebook page.

The social network’s outreach among public figures and the prominence it gives subscribe suggestions on the site show a level of commitment to taking away some of Twitter’s power and preventing Google+ from gaining traction as a source for news.

Journalists like Ann Curry, Nicholas Kristof, Katie Couric and Don Lemon have converted to Timeline and enabled subscribe. Some of these figures have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. More than 90 journalists from the Washington Post and more than 50 from The New York Times have made their profiles available to public subscribers, according to the Journalists + Facebook note. The Washington Post recently published a list of all its staff members who are accessible on Facebook.

Many users have been able to accumulate Facebook subscribers at a much faster rate than they gained Twitter followers. A sample of 25 journalists showed the average journalist had a 320 percent increase in subscribers since November 2011. This is largely due to the “People To Subscribe To” sidebar that shows up on several pages prompting users to follow updates from journalists, celebrities and other public figures. Of course, when one user subscribes to another, it generates a story in friends’ News Feeds in a way that Twitter hasn’t taken advantage of. (Twitter added an activity feed in August 2011, but users have to visit a separate tab to view it.) Facebook has also offered a subscribe button plugin for third-party sites and added a subscribe call to action within its comments plugin and the “page owners” section of pages.

Notably, Facebook has employees dedicated to outreach, not only to bring the right personalities to the platform but also to provide best practices. Journalist Program Manager Vadim Lavrusik has been extremely active in sharing examples of how reporters can use the social network and producing resources like the Facebook + Journalists note today, which included recommendations such as “reader shoutouts can increase feedback by as much as 4x.”

Twitter might have to start implementing changes or better courting public figures to convince them not to neglect Twitter in favor of Facebook. Google+ has an advantage with the way Google Search now displays results from its social network, which could help keep it in the race for public attention. But for Facebook, a key point will be letting users choose whether to post to subscribers or friends. Because posts have to be public for subscribers to see them, a user is forced to also share that content with friends. Unlike Twitter, users can only have one profile so they have to mix business and personal. Another issue is that Facebook does not have a way to designate a profile as “official,” which has long been a problem for pages. And because many people who have subscribers also have pages, the social network will need to determine how to balance these in search.

Facebook roundup: subscribe, SOPA, online video, Koobface, MTV, more

Featured page owners get subscribe button – Fans can now more easily subscribe to Facebook page admins who make themselves visible as “Page Owners.” Facebook added a subscribe button to this featured section of pages on Friday. This only applies to page owners who have enabled subscribers.

Zuckerberg weighs in on SOPA -  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg weighed in on the Stop Online Piracy Act on Wednesday, writing in a Facebook post, “We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the Internet’s development.”

Facebook fifth in video viewers – ComScore reported this week that Facebook was the fifth most popular destination for online video behind Google, VEVO, Yahoo and Viacom. This is among the 182 million Internet users in the U.S. who watched online videos in December. Last year Facebook placed sixth, but generally has not seen steady growth in this category. [Image via ZDnet]

Employees increasingly use social media at work -  Palo Alto Networks found a 300 percent increase in social networking on corporate networks this year. Specifically, bandwidth consumption for Facebook apps, social plugins and posting increased from 5 percent to 25 percent since October 2010.

Update on Koobface virus -  Facebook security team posted an update about the Koobface virus this week, noting that after three years the company is been able to keep the virus off the platform, but is still seeking those responsible.

Next gen iPad includes Facebook code - iMore is reporting that buried within the iOS 5.1 beta 3 code for iPad3 are “ongoing references to Facebook.”

MTV uses Facebook for scholarships -  MTV has partnered with the College Board and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to run a campaign called My College Dollars, which guides students to college scholarships for which they can apply.

Facebook 2011: A Year in Review

Facebook’s “Move fast and break things” mantra was put into action again this year as the company overhauled a number of its products, introduced many new features and eliminated old functionality. Here is a month-by-month review of changes that most affected users, marketers and developers on the platform in 2011.

January

Redesigned Profiles
Facebook started the year with a new look for profile pages. With Timeline on everyone’s minds now, it can be easy to forget that 12 months ago the social network had redesigned profiles to include more photos and information at a glance, eliminating the horizontal tab structure that had been in place since 2008.

All-in-One Messaging
Users began to get access to the new Messages product, which groups all direct messages between users whether they are viewing a conversation from the inbox, chat window or mobile.

Sponsored Stories
In an effort to make advertising more relevant by including social context, Facebook introduced Sponsored Stories that allow advertisers to pay to promote activity on the site, such as likes or check-ins. The company added more Sponsored Story types in April and June.

Memorable Status Updates
Perhaps hinting at the nostalgia-inducing Timeline to come later in the year, Facebook began displaying users’ status updates and stories from the past.

Secure Browsing
Facebook started giving users the option of accessing Facebook over an encrypted connection and encouraged developers to obtain a Secure Sockets Layer certificate to make their iframe apps accessible to users with secure browsing enabled. Since then, the company has prompted users to switch to HTTPS and made SSL certificates mandatory for all developers.

February

Page Redesign
Page owners got a number of new features to help them manage their communities. These included activity notifications, “Use Facebook as a Page,” and a spam filter for comments. Fan pages were also designed to look more like the new user profiles and place pages, which displayed applications vertically on the left hand side rather than in tabs across the top. Advertisers also gained the option of driving ads to any landing tab, not just the default.

Improved Like Button 
Clicking the Like Button began sharing full-sized stories in the News Feed rather than the one-line Recent Activity stories it previously generated. This along with the Send button that came in April have replaced the Share button, which Facebook no longer supports.

Real-Time Commenting
Facebook made commenting more like chat by removing the “Post” button and instead publishing comments after a user hits “enter” on the keyboard. Since this leads to more accidental comments, Facebook later began giving users a 12-second window to edit their comment.

March

Questions
After a Q&A product similar to Quora never made it out of beta in 2010, Facebook relaunched Questions as a poll feature aimed at helping users get recommendations from their friends. Pages began using the feature to engage their fans with questions that had a more viral effect than plain-text posts.

Deals Subscription Service
Facebook seemed to be taking on Groupon when it began a new pre-paid deals service for users in select cities, but it discontinued the test in August.

April

Updated Groups
Ahead of the rumored Google+ launch, Facebook made improvements to its Groups product aimed at helping people share with subsets of their friends. Most notably, group admins gained the ability to approve people before they are added to the group. Users could now also upload photo albums or ask Questions within groups.

Send Button
The Send button was introduced as a way for people to share articles and third-party websites with groups of friends, whereas the Like button posts to all a users’ friends.

May

New Ad Analytics
Facebook made several changes to its advertising analytics dashboard to focus on performance indicators such as Page Likes, app installs and social reach, rather than older online advertising metrics such as CPM.

Recommend This Place
The social network implemented a recommendation box on place pages (and fan pages that included an address) so that users can share their opinions about a location or a business.

Tag Pages in Photos
Users and pages gained the ability to tag other pages in photos they share on the site. This increases the reach of any given photo and builds additional connections between users and pages.

June

Happening Now: Prelude to Ticker
Facebook began testing a “Happening Now” module on the right hand side of the page. This later became the Ticker, which shows more recent activity from your friends, including comments, page likes and now Open Graph activity like listening to a song in Spotify.

July

Mandatory Credits
All developers on the Facebook platform became required to use Credits as the sole payment option for their social games. The company had announced a July 1 deadline at the beginning of the year and then added additional payment options and feedback channels for developers over the next few months to support the transition.

Video Calling and Group Chat
Teaming up with Skype, Facebook integrated video calling into its chat product. The social network also expanded group chat to friends who were not already in designated groups. Users can now add any friend to a chat conversation.

August

Revised Privacy Controls
The company simplified its privacy settings page and moved controls to the profile editor and news feed publisher. Users also gained the ability to approve tags in photos, check-ins and statuses.

Canvas App Page Changes

Facebook made several changes to the Canvas Page, bookmarking and games stories in the news feed in order to improve game discovery, retention and user experience. The redesign added a real-time activity ticker dedicated to stories about a user’s friends engaging with games.

Expanded Ads API
Facebook brought its ad API out of private beta and began allowing more developers to build tools and services that programmatically create, buy and manage Facebook ad campaigns.

Standalone Messenger App
Moving away from its all-in-one mobile application strategy, Facebook released Messenger as a separate app to rival texting and group chat alternatives.

New Locations App for Pages
Some corporations gained access to a beta product that allows them to designate multiple locations under a parent page and include a store finder on the page.

September

Timeline
At F8, Facebook unveiled a new version of user profiles that organizes stories in a timeline format, giving users the option to add life events to any point in their personal history.

Open Graph Application Platform
Along with Timeline, the company announced a new way to connect people and objects beyond the Like button. Developers will be able to make apps that let users share what they are reading, watching, listening to, cooking and more. Along with this comes “frictionless sharing” and additional avenues for app discovery.

Reconfigured News Feed
To accommodate this new type of Open Graph app, Facebook redesigned the home page to include News Feed and Ticker.

Subscribe
Facebook introduced a new one-way follow dynamic with its Subscribe button. Users can subscribe to the public updates of anyone who allows subscribers. This gives the social network a way to compete with Twitter and Google+.

Smart Lists
The social network introduced Smart Lists to automatically group users’ friends by location, workplace and school. As users become comfortable with Facebook grouping friends automatically, we could see Facebook’s algorithms creating more nuanced lists that compete with Google’s Circles feature.

October

Mobile Platform
After much speculation, the company unveiled a way to help mobile developers market their native and HTML5-based apps through its platform. Developers can now take advantage of bookmarks, requests and the news feed in the same way that Facebook canvas developers do.

Talking About This
Facebook added a new public metric to pages called “Talking About This.” This metric encourages pages to think about engagement, not just accumulating Likes.

iPad Application
Facebook released its official iPad app after months of leaks and rumors about its development.

November

Sponsored Stories in Ticker
The social network began showing Sponsored Story ads in the Ticker, signaling more lines being blurred between paid and organic content in the future. The company later told us Sponsored Story ads will be shown within the News Feed starting in 2012.

December

Timeline Goes Live
Facebook began its global release of the Timeline profile developers had gotten a preview of at F8. Timeline is still opt-in for users until sometime in early 2012. The company also debuted Timeline on mobile devices for the first time.

Coupon Test
We discovered Facebook testing a new coupon post feature for pages that could have big implications for next year. Pages that are part of this beta can offer discounts and promote them with Sponsored Stories.

Private Message Test
We have also seen the social network testing a way for users to privately message page owners. This, too, could have a big impact for people using Facebook for business in 2012.

Study: Twitter Beats Facebook for Media Attention in 2011

Facebook was the second most-covered social site of the year with about 45% of all media hits, according to a report by HighBeam Research.

Twitter was the media darling this year, earning nearly half of all the combined social media attention in the press and leading every month except for two when Facebook edged the other network. Facebook often makes headlines for its legal and privacy issues in addition to product changes that affect the social network’s 800 million users. Twitter, on the other hand, gets a lot of mentions in the press because of the celebrities and other notable people breaking news and feeding gossip on the site. Facebook has started to make a push with its Subscribe feature to get high profile people using the site as themselves rather than less personal pages. How this evolves could have implications for the type and frequency of stories that mention Facebook next year.

With the rollout of Timeline, Facebook PR pointed the media to the profiles of Britney Spears, Tim Tebow, Rajon Rondo, Lea Michele and Nicole Richie, who seem to have had early access to Timeline based on the dates associated with some of their posts. We expect the company to continue to build relationships with celebrities as it competes with Twitter.

According to data from HighBeam, Twitter received between 46 and 51% of media attention about social sites each month in 2011. Facebook only led media coverage in February and April. The social network redesigned its pages product in February, giving page owners more tools for managing communities. Also that month, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned amid protests that were widely reported to have been organized through social media sites.

In April, Facebook introduced Deals, which gained some attention for being a Groupon competitor. The social network was also in the news because of legal issues. The Winklevoss twins lost their appeal that month about the size of a settlement they received from Facebook in 2008. Meanwhile, another man Paul Ceglia refiled a case claiming up to 50% ownership of the company.

The HighBeam report also looked at press mentions for LinkedIn, MySpace and Foursquare. LinkedIn earned 3.33% of media attention this year as it filed for IPO in January and became publicly traded in May. MySpace took 1.3% of total press mentions, mostly in stories about its demise. Foursquare is largely off the media’s radar, accounting for 0.71% of press coverage about social media platforms.

The report did not offer data about Google+.

Facebook’s Subscribe Button for Websites is Now Live

Less than a day after announcing it was introducing a version of its “Subscribe” button for websites, Facebook has taken the new feature live.

According to a post on the Facebook developer blog, the new button has the same functionality as it does on Facebook, with a subscriber seeing the public posts of the person they subscribed to appear in their News Feed. In addition, the new Subscribe action is also shared to friends of the subscriber, so anyone who sees that update will also be able to Subscribe to someone’s public posts via their News Feed.

The subscribe button is already live on a number of websites such as Absolute Radio, The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and Time.com. The HTML5, iframe and XFBML versions of the Subscribe button’s code are now available to everyone on the developer blog post.

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