For quite some time, Facebook has had a comments plugin for blogs, but it was not used very much. Today, they announced a new version of the comment system that is already being adopted by some large sites. Obviously, this has lots of the big tech blogs talking. ReadWriteWeb specifically remarked about the missing “bells and whistles”:
We got a glimpse of this commenting system on Facebook back in October 2010 and it looked like something to really be excited about. It had comment voting, rating counts, and gave individual stats on each commenter and comment. It looks like some of those features have been pulled into the background, as we’re still seeing user networks in the new system, but no more downvoting. What’s a user got to do to get a dislike around here?
The question is really how this changes things. First, we need to know what this new comment plugin really does. Obviously, there are some basic features. You authenticate using Facebook, duh. There is a reply capability, and of course there are “Likes”. However, this is not just a simple chronological stream. The blog post linked above has more details on how this is ordered:
The upgraded Comments Box uses social signals to surface the highest quality comments for each user. Comments are ordered to show users the most relevant comments from friends, friends of friends, and the most liked or active discussion threads, while comments marked as spam are hidden from view.
There are moderation tools for the comments, the ability for the comment to be posted to your Facebook stream, and the ability to comment as a page (like the RegularGeek page). If you reply to someone’s comment about a blog post on Facebook, your comment will appear on the blog post as well.
Obviously, there are a bunch of interesting features, so many that people are already wondering if this means doom for services like Disqus, IntenseDebate and Echo. The simple answer is a resounding yes. As much power and flexibility those services bring, the ability to tap into a massive user base is probably too enticing for most bloggers. However, this is not really my point.
I would love to tell you not to use this new system, but I would be wasting my breath. In reality, I think we should accept that Facebook is the new infrastructure of communication on the internet. With a user population over 500 million people, nothing else comes close. Yes, there are more people with email accounts, but there is no one service that has as many users as Facebook. This may become even more true as the integration of mobile devices becomes more prevalent in our lives. If you are mobile, Facebook has an app for that. If you do not have a smart phone, Facebook has an app for that. If you do not want to use the app for your phone, you can use SMS.
Facebook has continuously made moves to ensure that all conversation gets back to Facebook in some way. They changed their messaging system in the hopes that you would not need to use email. They changed their groups so that they would not become as spammy as other group platforms. They have made changes so that brands can talk to consumers. They have started integrating with other sites so that all of your activity becomes a like or a message on Facebook. Facebook has changed internet communication, slowly but surely. Facebook has become infrastructure.