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Facebook beefs up its ‘Like’ button

Facebook’s footprint is everywhere on the Web. It seems that every news item, every article, every blog post that we read is accompanied by the inevitable invitation to Share our magical experience with our Facebook friends.

Originally, the invitation to Share was exactly as described: clicking on the Share button would result in a link to the article being posted in your News Feed for all your Facebook friends to see. Facebook later enhanced the Share feature, including the first three or four lines of the article and, if available, a thumbnail picture.

Two years ago, Facebook introduced the ‘Like’ button, with its cheerful thumbs-up symbol. The Like button was a brilliant idea and an immediate hit. Not only could you now share an article or a post, but you could also effectively say “Hey, I like this – what do you think?”

Of course, for third-party Web publishers, the Like button was an instant hit. Who wouldn't want someone to Like what they had written or posted? The Like button spread like wildfire. Today, we can Like almost anything that appears on the Web: articles, photos, videos, songs – the Like button even appears next to every single post on Facebook, encouraging a perpetual feel-good atmosphere of positive reinforcement.

In theory, the Like button and the Share button perform very different roles. For example, as the blog Downloadsquad points out, you might want to Share a story about a government regime firing on unarmed protesters, but you certainly don’t want to Like it.

However, as of this week, Facebook has beefed up the Like button on third-party sites so it effectively has the same outcome as the Share button. Instead of a one-line Recent Activity story, clicking on a Like button will now publish a full News Feed story, along with text, a link, and a thumbnail.

Inside Facebook speculates that the change may eventually result in the disappearance of the Share button altogether. However, tech site CNET suggests that some users may now be more reluctant to click the Like button if it results in more clutter on their News Feed and a prominent endorsement that they never intended.

Nothing is likely to slow down Facebook’s penetration of the Web, but if Share does disappear, then maybe this is a perfect time for Facebook to introduce that much-needed ‘Dislike’ button!

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