Facebook Poised to Reveal Comment Platform
Posted by Michael Dossett
Facebook is preparing to take the next step in its quest to monetize its exponential growth and continued dominance of the social Web. Reports surfaced this week that Facebook will introduce a third-party commenting platform for publishers across the Web.
The incredible success of Facebook Connect has convinced the Palo Alto-based company that significant potential lies in its ability to forge partnerships with media and content producers that integrate social connections into a wide variety of Web experiences. (Facebook has recently taken steps in courting major media publishers like Time Warner in an effort to pursue new platforms of integration and penetration.) More than two million Web properties have taken advantage of Facebook’s “Like” function to drive traffic and increase user engagement, and a Facebook commenting platform will continue to grow that number.
To date, Disqus has been a fairly ubiquitous presence as the comment tool of choice for top publishers like TechCrunch, Mashable, The Wall Street Journal and many others. Users can give articles a “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” and can comment via Disqus through their Twitter or Facebook accounts, but Facebook’s new commenting platform threatens to displace Disqus as the king of commenting.
Facebook already has nearly 600 million users; no need to set up a new account, no need to give application permissions, no hassle. Publishers can’t drive engagement if they aren’t connecting with people, and a partnership with Facebook means instant access to hundreds of millions of users and their friends. Readers can “Like” and comment on a piece of content, and the power of social proof produces a snowball effect that increases traffic and extends online reach as those actions permeate onto users’ news feeds, boosting awareness and driving new traffic to the site. Reports indicate users will also be able to vote for and against comments in a stream, and a Facebook-run moderation system may be in the works. People.com is already using a version of Facebook’s commenting platform, and major online publishers like The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and TIME are prime candidates to adopt the service as it is rolled out.
As CNET pointed out, Facebook has developed a significant slate of new products in recent months, including Facebook Places, Facebook Deals and Facebook Questions, providing instant competition for companies like Foursquare, Groupon and Quora. While each of these products are still in their infancy, its conceivable that the rising prominence of social media in business and the utter dominance of Facebook within the social realm will force properties and publishers to adopt Facebook tools for fear of missing out on its massive and addicted user base.
The benefits of Facebook integration to publishers are clear, but why would Facebook continue to offer its API to these properties for free? In return for enabling social integration, Facebook often receives extensive data on a publisher’s audience, which can in turn be combined with Facebook’s knowledge of its users’ activities to improve ad targeting on its own network. Understanding user intent and preference is critical, and the ability for Facebook to better understand the behavior of its users away from its own network is a key factor in advancing the company’s efforts to monetize in a period of hyper growth and massive external investment.
Social integration has become a crucial part of the success of online publishers, and given the widespread popularity of early Facebook integrations, the release of a Facebook commenting platform is a significant threat to Disqus, Echo and the other startups that have led the way thus far.