Feb. 1, 2011 at 12:15 PM ET
Like an imperialist nation, Facebook's manifest destiny propels it to go far beyond its big blue borders, and in a matter of weeks, it could launch a revamped, anti-anonymous commenting system that may become as ubiquitous a presence on blogs and digital publications as Facebook Connect. If Facebook is intent on colonizing every aspect of digital life, this is a big push in that direction.
CNET's Caroline McCarthy broke the story about Facebook's latest product, which could overwhelm and kill off other third-party commenting competitors that are already in place on a multitude of sites. Disqus, Echo, Livefyre and Intense Debate have all been mentioned (in McCarthy's article, as well as others covering the news) as start-ups that are bracing for the inevitable Facebook onslaught. (TechCrunch has more details on those sites and how they're shoring up their defenses.)
McCarthy wrote that Facebook is "actively seeking major media companies and blogs to partner with it for its launch, part of a bigger media industry move," and that the commenting system could allow for log-ins from other sites, such as Google or Twitter. The big kids on the playground typically haven't played well together, so this could be interesting to see how and if it'll come to pass.
But there's another issue that has the potential for some heated battles ahead: Facebook's insistence on using real names may clash with the raging anonymity that dominates online comments now. But therein lies the potential draw of the Facebook commenting system, too: being able to maintain a consistent identity while surfing and commenting through a bevy of sites. Its authenticated identity system is a spam/troll-killer, and Inside Facebook lays it out why it works:
Websites often run into issues using their own commenting system or a third-party solution such as Disqus and Intense Debate because there are few deterrents to abusive behavior other than of a site-wide or widget-wide ban. Spammers, trolls, and those looking to dispense hate can easily create another account or move to another site without losing much.
But Facebook wields a much more powerful weapon: the ability to terminate a user’s account, severing all their friend connections. Most users will be too scared of such social ruin to abuse the Facebook Social Commenting plugin with their real account, whether professionally, as a joke, drunk, or in a fit of anger.
Facebook has already dipped its toes in the water with its Comments social plugin, which recreates that familiar comments environment for users outside of the blue walls. In October, that plugin went through a big upgrade that added voting, a user's network/location, feedback rating and comment count, among other things. Facebook Connect users already have the hang of this when they share articles and post comments directly to their profile pages. And this month, Facebook introduced replying directly to e-mail notifications of comments, within the e-mail, without having to log-in.
They way McCarthy hears it from her sources, the tsunami of Facebook will seep into every aspect of online interactivity.
Facebook will be able to power the entire commenting system--handling the log-in and publishing, cross-promoting comments on individuals' Facebook walls, and possibly even promoting them as well on media outlets' own "fan" pages. Undoubtedly, the Facebook "like" button will be deeply integrated as well.
Do you think this means the end of anonymous comments? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?