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Facebook Like Bait and Switch Facebook Like Bait and Switch

Why the Facebook Like Button Change is a ‘Bait and Switch’

Facebook Like Bait and Switch

Sunday, Facebook rolled out a change in the functionality of the Facebook “Like” button on websites across the Internet, essentially giving it the same basic functionality as the “Share” button. The only difference is that pushing the Like button doesn’t open up a new window or give you any way to edit what you’re posting to your wall.

It just posts it. All of it.

One click and the details are posted on your wall as well as into the streams of your friends. You cannot edit the message. Whatever the website you’re Liking has in their meta tags, that’s the message you’re posting. The end result is similar to that of the Share button, but the process removes a person’s ability to edit or personalize what they want posted to their wall.

Facebook knows exactly what they’re doing. This is a classic “bait ‘n switch” move that was well planned and executed perfectly all the way down to the exact day that it was launched.

Here are some reasons why this stinks:

No Control


The Share functionality on websites is very simple. You push the Share button. A window pops up that allows you to personalize the sharing with a comment or question, or you can leave it blank just have the title of the page you’re sharing be the top message on your post.

The Like functionality is even more simple. You push a button. No pop up. No dialogue box. No indication that anything has happened on your Facebook wall.  What’s worse is that you cannot edit it at any point, neither from the page you’re liking nor on your Facebook profile itself (except in the case of the “Like with Comment” button which we cover below). Whatever message the website wants to send, you’re sending that message by liking it.

To Facebook’s credit, if you unlike the page from the source, it removes it from your wall. The reverse is also possible – deleting it from your wall gives you the ability to unlike it at the source as well.

This comes down to simplicity winning over functionality. By making it a one-click process, more pages will be shared on Facebook (in theory). There is also a one-way interaction between Like and Share buttons on the same page – Liking something counts as a Share, but Sharing something does not count as a Like.

Here’s where the functionality gets weird and a potential fix comes into play…

Some Like widgets have an option to add a comment. While it doesn’t allow full control over what is posted, it at least allows you to post a comment with your Like. The problem is that once you post that comment, it’s no longer a Like. Instead, it acts like a Share and no longer says you Liked a link. If you don’t post a comment with the same button, it shows it as a Like.

If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is.

The potential fix (and where Facebook will likely go with this) is to consolidate the process. Eliminate the Share functionality altogether by sending an update that makes the functionality the same across the board. Then, make the Like button open the comment dialogue as well as an option to “edit before posting.”

At the very least, Facebook needs to give users the option of editing the Like from their Facebook page to add a message and change the content posted from the website meta tags. Currently, you have to comment on your own post to be able to say anything.

They have an opportunity to improve this and take away the “stink factor” that will make users upset. The lack of a warning, on the other hand…

No Warning


Facebook and Google are very different from Apple and Microsoft. Apple and Microsoft normally talk about changes, additions, and products before rolling them out. Facebook and Google roll them out and then may or may not say anything about them.

This roll out is something that (from a user’s perspective) should have been announced ahead of time. There should be a message posted on Facebook once a user logs in. There should be posts about it (and no, leaking it to Mashable doesn’t count). Instead, they just made the change.

There’s a reason for this. When you want things to get attention, you roll it out Monday or Tuesday. When you want news buried, you release it late on Friday. When you want something to make an impact but without people noticing, you roll it out on Oscar Sunday, which brings us to…

The Motives


Facebook wants to be important to everyone. They have the users. Businesses are paying attention. Websites are integrating. This move works towards helping 2 of the 3. The users, who this change doesn’t help, will be told that this switch is to make things easier for them. One-click sharing is nice.

Despite what they say, this isn’t to benefit the users. Sharing was something that people consciously did when they wanted to, well, share. Liking had a nice but less prominent functionality and that was just fine for most. The challenge that Facebook faces is that Liking didn’t do much and Sharing wasn’t being used enough.

This move is all about the page views. It allows more exposure for websites, boosting the importance of Facebook integration across the board. As traffic sent to websites goes up as a result of this change, more prominence and attention will be given to Facebook as a necessary tool for exposure, promotions, and marketing.

Even the roll out day was perfect. It’s a double-dipped ice cream cone for Facebook. More sharing was likely done during the Academy Awards than on just about any day other than the Super Bowl. More importantly, people will be talking about the Oscars tomorrow and not about a minor change they barely noticed on Facebook.

The longer that people are unaware that Liking posts directly to their wall, the better from Facebook’s perspective. They don’t want people to be selective with their Likes the way they are with their Shares. The more content that is posted to walls and news feeds, the better off Facebook will be.

Overall, this was a good move from a purely strategy perspective. It’s devious and may backfire, but chances are it will succeed to some extent in every aspect. The first day of buzz has been relatively light (just as they expected). If they can make it through the week with very few people noticing, they will probably come out of this with a significant increase in traffic sent as well as overall activity on their site itself.

Damn your brilliance, Facebook!

  1. IF they can get away with this change without a backlash, then it could stick. I don’t see it. It may not be an immediate response, but eventually people will respond. The question; will they just roll over and take it, like the recent profile changes, or make a big stink. Personally, less control of my FB wall encourages less use of both buttons.

  2. This was probably the worst move Facebook has done yet. While it may seem likes should get more use and better information distribution by users…. it won’t work. Most avg Joe users and the vast majority of the non tech crowd never use the share button and in fact consider it spammy. Before they would ‘like’ something due to it only making a small text based update and not putting pictures and a paragraph on their profile plus everyone they knows. Now they have no option and most will stop the limited use they already had of the share/like features to avoid the situation entirely. I could of course be wrong and Facebook is notorious for not caring at all about what it users think but… these types of changes are the path to becoming MySpace. Tweaking profiles is one thing, radically altering the most basic functionality of the only way to transmit non Facebook info is a very bad idea.

  3. I like that you have this covered, yet using the ‘Like’ button on this very page sends no thumbnail nor headline to Facebook. UGLY, ugly, ugly,

  4. If you are going to call someting a “classic” something else, you really should have some idea what that something else actually is. In this case, you obviously don’t know what a bait and switch really is.

  5. People rarely like changes when they are first rolled out, but eventually we learn how to deal with them and integrate them into our lives, or else we do something to get away from them.

    Maybe people will stop “Liking” things, and/or stop “Sharing” things, or both, or neither. Maybe people will start leaving Facebook.


  6. Just means another feature I wouldn’t use because I wouldn’t want to spam my friends. It’s one thing to have tiny one sentence “nascentt as liked …..” but to have entire posts for ever single news article, and web page visited and liked in a day is a bit ridiculous.

    Though facebook has pretty much lost all functionality I found useful when they killed tabs. having my friendfeed, PSN and lastfm data in separate tabs to avoid spamming users was a great idea, now having to put it all in a single stream with status updates is just too spammy.

  7. The whole of Facebook is a “bait and switch,” just like the constantly changing privacy settings – they want and need your private data to make money. The more private, the more personal, the more useful it is to them.

  8. Allow a website to post what it wants on your wall can lead to so much abuse (i.e. spam). I suspect they will have to change the functionality to allow you to edit it or people will just stop ‘liking’ things.

  9. There is one thing I’d like to correct from the article that may have an emphasis on the end thoughts. When you say, “The Like functionality is even more simple. You push a button. No pop up. No dialogue box. No indication that anything has happened on your Facebook wall”, it isn’t true. Any time you ‘like’ a page, it is posted on your wall – just with not as much emphasis as they are doing now. It has always done that and it just now having a little more functionality pushed to it in the form of an article title and image.

    And I think this is a great idea, especially from the end of a user who does try and get my clients websites out through Facebook sharing. And yes, this move is all about page views – but that’s not a bad thing. It’s going to make users more aware of what their friends like. You don’t HAVE TO like things.

    My quick thought.

  10. Prior to this change I sometimes found myself in a bit of a pickle. There would be an article or blog that I liked and wanted to “share” but only found a “like” button on the site. There’s always the option to copy/paste the link directly into my wall but often times that was just too much of a hassle. I don’t think that “sharing” is really “spammy” as some would suggest, many times I find media that my I KNOW my friends would like and “sharing” it on my wall seemed the best way to expose it. I’m sure that many people do use “sharing” as a means of “spam” but much like the boy who cried wolf those users and their links therein just end up being ignored after a few times. I think this article is really interesting and it’s probably accurate in regards to it’s claims on Facebook. However, social media is a HUGE part of Facebook’s core functionality and I think it was in their best interest to make these changes.

  11. I removed all ‘like’ buttons from our sites. I’m sticking with Apture dot com as they still allow personalized sharing. For how long? That is a good question.

  12. ok i am going to “like” this article just to actually see what happens… this is a bit confusing…but is it that important? can’t you just delete a post weather it is a like or a share once it is on your wall?

  13. This change is OBNOXIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe I don’t want everything I ‘like’ to be plastered on my wall! Maybe I just want the person who owns the item I ‘like’ to know that I like it, and THAT’S IT!!!!!!! If I wanted to share that overtly on my wall I would use the SHARE function. These are two entirely different functions. If Facebook doesn’t restore the like button to it’s previous form I’m just going to stop ‘liking’ most things that I otherwise would have. I don’t want my wall trumpeting everything I like. It’s rude, obnoxious and will make Facebook an overall less pleasant experience for everyone. Sigh.

  14. I don’t know if this is the same problem/issue:
    I have just created a new page of FB (Environmental English). I want to like various other pages but every time I click the like button for them I get this message:
    ”Oops! Something’s gone wrong. We’re working to get it fixed as soon as we can.”
    Help please!

  15. Facebook rocks! it is good one i too try to place my client’s website by pushing that like button… Let me try guys!!!

  16. Absolutely wonderful article. I wonder what will ever become of mankind. Seems like that quick and resourceful will outlive all of our smart people 🙂 and thanks for posted!

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