Every developer wants Facebook referral traffic, but not all apps have actions that fit well with auto-sharing, and others might not want to post to Facebook without their users’ express permission. So today Facebook launches a Like action for mobile and web apps. Don’t call it a “Like Button” though, as instead of immediately being one-click, the new Like Action requires a user to give publishing permission to an app first. The Like Action will also generate activity Facebook can turn into Sponsored Stories, the center of its mobile monetization plan.
Though subtle, this is actually a big step forward for privacy on Facebook in addition to being growth tool for developers. The Like Action means apps that want growth don’t have to tack auto-sharing onto some action or invent their own “love” “favorite” or “hell yeah!” button. That will give developers the flexibility to add deliberate sharing to more sensitive types of content that could have caused auto-sharing disasters.
With the amount of new users that frictionless sharing delivering to apps like Socialcam and Viddy, Facebook has basically been coercing startups and public companies alike to integrate Open Graph. Some users aren’t pleased, though. There’s been backlash to news sites and video apps that automatically broadcast your reading and viewing activity, especially when you click some sexy, gory, or sensational-titled content.
Facebook cracked down on this with a rule that certain media apps can’t auto-share until you’ve engaged with content for 10 seconds, which is reducing Open Graph spam. But still there were probably developers who wanted more virality, but felt auto-sharing was too aggressive. The new Like Action lets them give users an explicit way to share, so they always know what they’re posting.
The person who Liked will have a Facebook story about the activity shared with their friends which will send traffic back to the app. And if the content they Liked was created by a fellow Facebook user, they’ll receive a notification about getting the thumbs up. Developers can also choose their own design for the button that triggers it. Facebook highlighted mobile use cases in the announcement because that’s where it needs to appear stronger, but the Like Actions works on web apps too.
The easily integrated “Built-In Like” will also eliminate needless development work and sometimes slow Open Graph action approvals so apps can include sharing right away. Facebook Liking has also become a familiar behavior, so so launch partners Instagram and Foursquare might see an uptick in sharing by replace their proprietary Like buttons with the Like Action.
Overall the new Like Action is both developer and privacy friendly. Plus it will send content back to Facebook that the site can monetize with mobile sponsored stories that are proving to have skyhigh click through rates and be popular with advertisers.
Finally, the Like Action could open the door for apps with racy or uber-nerdy content to say “Hey, if you want to share that you’re reviewing a brothel or watching Star Trek behind-the-scenes, we won’t force you. The Like Action’s right there.”
If you hate accidental auto-sharing, you’re in luck. Now you have to be watching or reading something for at least 10 seconds before Facebook apps can auto-share the activity to your Timeline. That should drastically reduce the amount of crappy click-bait articles and video clips you see in the news feed and ticker.
Video apps must also now inform you that they auto-share and provide an option to opt out on the page where a video is watched. These rules could deflate the user counts of apps like Viddy and Socialcam.
It also recently added more requirements to its comprehensive checklist auto-sharing apps must follow. The debate rages on about whether “frictionless sharing” is the future of discovery or the death of curation, but at least Facebook is taking decisive steps to keep the worst content from spreading friend to friend.
Facebook launched its Frictionless sharing apps eight months ago, where users authorize an app once and it can then publish on their behalf when they take certain actions. But rather than firm requirements for privacy controls it has merely encouraged best practices that developers “should” follow.
Unfortunately many developers only care about maximizing referral traffic and user counts, not the health of the Facebook experience. Back then I said Facebook might need to come up with a solution on its end rather than relying on the good hearts of developers. Now its is finally getting tough on spam, making the 10-second rule a firm requirement for news and video apps.
Here’s the exact text, with my emphasis added in bold: “Built-in watch and read actions can only be published after someone engages with the content for 10 or more seconds. If a video is shorter than 10 seconds, the viewer must watch the entire video.” For contrast, Facebook’s policy on providing sharing controls for most apps only says “You should allow people to turn sharing on or off for the content in your app, and the setting a user selects should persist.”
Thankfully, video apps are now more tightly controlled. That’s important because unlike utility apps or news readers where most content is professionally made or there’s little opportunity for deception, video apps like Viddy and Socialcam often feature user generated content that can be misleadingly titled. Spam and link-bait are in the eye of the beholder so some 15 year old might really want to share a “Sexy Girl’s Top Comes Off” video, even if others find that video of a girl putting down the top of her convertible to be misleading spam.
For instance, I was pissed off when Socialcam auto-shared that I had watched “Lil Wayne Fights A Basketball Player” when it was really a video pulled from YouTube of the rapper celebrating a NBA team’s win by chest-bumping with one of the athletes. A lack of regulation and suspected favoring by Facebook’s EdgeRank news feed sorting algorithm led video apps to grow like weeds during April. In fact, they’re springing up and growing so fast they can’t moderate their user generated content in real-time, so Facebook minimizing the spread of low-quality content is critical.
Now for video apps, “You must provide users with the ability to remove any video stories you publish to Facebook, and include this option on the same page where you host the video content” and “You must give the user clear, ongoing, and in-context messaging that their watch actions will be published on Facebook.” That means even if you get tricked into clicking, it will be obvious that your viewing activity will be shared and you can instantly nuke the story.
If Viddy and Socialcam’s traffic have been propped up by accidental views under 10-seconds each, the new rule could be a huge blow to their growth potential, and make their big funding rounds and enormous valuations seem even more ridiculous.
Beyond policy changes, Facebook has been tweaking how its displays auto-shared stories. It switched to a Trending Articles design that shows a blurb about a news article and not just link bait-prone headlines. Expect more product changes as Facebook adapts to emergent developer behavior.
Frictionless sharing and the Open Graph platform are hugely ambitious moves for Facebook. They could provide the content and ad targeting necessary to grow its revenue such that it can justify its $104 billion IPO price, or at least its current $81 billion market cap. But they also push the limits of privacy and fundamentally change how we share from an explicit to an implicit action.
Developers can’t be left to police themselves, or many will be as spammy as possible. If the average user is going to get comfortable with auto-sharing, they need to know an impulse or accidental click won’t instantly share something awful with all their friends. A 10-second grace period is a good start.
[Image Credit: HackThePC]
Video curation platform Shortform is launching a few new features that will make it easier for its video jockeys (VJs) to curate and share content with friends and followers. The hope is that by introducing a browser bookmarklet, as well as implementing Facebook Open Graph, the startup will be able to continue its hockey stick-like growth in video minutes consumed.
Shortform is introducing a bookmarklet for adding videos to their channels. The bookmarklet will work with all modern browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer), making it easier for VJs to instantly update their playlists without having to open a new tab, copy and paste the URL, etc. In addition to adding videos to their channels, the bookmarklet will also find all videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and CollegeHumor that are on a given page so that users can choose between them.
In addition to the new bookmarklet, Shortform is also rolling out Facebook Open Graph integration, which will seamlessly share the channels that users are watching. Shortform already had launched a connection with Facebook that let VJs and viewers to share what they were watching with friends on the social network, but they had to click a share button to do so. The new social feature will automatically share channels and VJs that viewers are watching, so long as they opt in.
According to Shortform CEO Nader Ghaffari, the choice to share channels and not individual videos was not just meant to avoid spamming user news feeds, like some other high-profile video startups have over the past few weeks. It was also because Shortform is, at its core, about curated collections of videos, and it hopes to highlight those collections rather than individual pieces of content.
The goal is to grow its user base, but also to increase engagement — that is, the amount of time that users spend watching videos through Shortform channels. Since the beginning of the year, the startup has seen a 400 percent increase in the time spent per month, with users watching more than 16 million minutes of video in April.
One way it’s currently doing that is by encouraging its VJs fighting for viewers’ attention. The site runs a weekly VJ competition, where it rewards the top 50 VJs, as determined by the total amount of time users spend on each of their channels. Shortform is awarding a total of $2,500 to the top channels every week, with the first-place VJ getting $600, second place getting $400, third place getting $200, and so-on down the line.
While the competition is one way to reward the VJ who are driving users to the service, it’s just one step toward providing them with more money. In the future, Ghaffari says he’d like to have a more formal revenue-sharing agreement with VJs as the startup ramps up its own monetization.
Facebook today revealed statistics from a variety of video apps that have integrated with the new Timeline interface through the Open Graph API. According to the performance numbers out of the likes of VEVO, Viddy, and DailyMotion, video apps are getting tons of traction from integrating with Facebook’s newest look and feel.
Some highlights from Facebook’s blog post on video app growth on Timeline:
- Video sharing iPhone app Viddy has doubled its average daily sign-ups since launching its Timeline app in February. Most impressively, its monthly active users have boomed from 60,000 to more than 920,000. We’re hearing separately that at the moment, fully 90 percent of new Viddy users sign up for the app through Facebook.
- VEVO has seen “exponential growth” since it deepened its Facebook integration across its web and mobile apps. Fully 60 percent of its traffic now comes from Timeline posts on Facebook. The company has seen its daily user registrations grow by 200 percent since turning on Facebook-only registration.
- Izlesene, a Turkish video site, has seen its monthly active users grow to 6.5 million from 250,000 since it made its debut on Timeline in September 2011.
- Social video site Dailymotion has had more than 9 million people add their app to their Facebook Timelines in the past two months alone.
The popularity of online videos often grows “virally,” passing from person to person, so it makes sense that a massively popular social network like Facebook would be a boon to services that host videos. It really is just the beginning when it comes to seeing how well video can do in this format — Ustream and Magisto, for example, just launched their own respective Facebook Timeline integrations this week. It’ll be exciting to see how the numbers progress in the weeks and months ahead, and if the engagement grows or wanes as more services become available on the platform.
Live video streaming website Ustream today is launching an integration with Facebook’s new Timeline user interface. This means that users will be able to share the live videos they’re watching on Ustream with their Facebook friends in real-time.
The Ustream launch is one of the first video app integrations with Timeline. Thus far, Facebook’s Timeline has been populated with other types of media: Journalism publications such as Yahoo News and the Washington Post, music through services such as Spotify, and social and lifestyle apps such as Foodspotting and Pose.
Of course, just like the articles you read and the songs you listen to, your tastes in video viewing are very personal — and not always something you’re willing to share with your entire social network of friends and acquaintances. Ustream says it has been very careful to implement strong privacy controls with the Timeline integration to make it completely clear to users what they’re sharing and when. “We have definitely made an effort to increase privacy controls, and make it very transparent to users what is being shared and what is not,” Ustream product manager Brian Mayer said in an interview this week.
For now, though, you still can’t watch Ustream videos at the same time as your friends within either Facebook or Ustream connected to Facebook (similar to how Google+ Hangouts lets you watch YouTube videos with friends at the same time and talk about it, but without the webcam aspect.) That capability is being worked on by the people at Ustream, I’m told, and should make its debut sometime in the weeks ahead: “Features that we are working on currently will let you see what your friends are watching and communicate with your friends live via our Social Stream,” a Ustream rep says.