Facebook is going after social sharing site Digg, launching a live counter for its content Share button to display how many times a piece of content has been shared on the Web.
Launched three years ago, the Share button is one of the site's older Facebook Connect features. Website publishers install it to let users take news articles, photos and videos from across the Web and share them with Facebook friends. Users then reshare the content.
Starting Oct. 23, the Share button will show how much or little the content has been shared. Facebook Product Manager Mark Kinsey noted:
""For instance, if you come across an interesting news story on The Huffington Post or the latest gadget on Chip Online, you'll be able to watch the number on the counter climb as more people share the item with their friends. This makes it easy to see what is being shared the most.""
This is essentially a move to show users what is popular, according to other users, which is how Digg became so empowering five years ago. Quality content posted on Digg became glorified based on how much it was dug. But the sheer size of the Facebook network has made the social site the new go-to place for sharing content.
Facebook claims its 300 million-plus users are sharing more than 2 billion pieces of content on the site per week from sites such as YouTube, Wall Street Journal and Photobucket, much of it through the Share button. Putting a counter on Share will make sharing cooler, spurring users to share more.
Facebook is allowing any Website to add the new Facebook Share button. Kinsey warned that Facebook's launch partners are limited, so he asked users to get in touch with their favorite Websites, developers and services to tell them to add the new Share button. Facebook Share requires just a few code snippets.
To further help Website publishers measure the value of the Share content, Facebook today also opened up the analytics associated with sharing habits on Facebook.
Techmeme is already using this data for selecting top stories, and bit.ly uses it for analyzing URL traffic.
But now any publisher can use Share analytics to see how often users share a link on Facebook; how often users "like" the shared story; how much users comment on the shared story on Facebook; and how often users click back to your site from the story.
"By giving you access to this data for all URLs, we hope you'll create tools to help analyze and understand how users interact with your content on Facebook," Kinsey wrote in a blog post.
These tools will help publishers divine what users like or don't like, allowing them to improve user engagement on the social network.
The new Facebook Share and Share Analytics come days after Facebook refreshed its homepage, adding the ability for users to toggle between News Feed and a Live Feed. Several Facebook users flamed the social network over the weekend, decrying the changes.
Facebook said it pulled the trigger on the homepage alterations after careful studies, but it may have to rethink the move if users continue to revolt.
Of course, given the vast amount of personal data Facebook collects on people, some users will feel like they can't leave the site without feeling disconnected from their friends, family or colleagues.