May 12, 2010

What is the Facebook Like button really about?

A lot of people are talking about Facebook and the social network's usurpation of our formerly private data. Facebook's personalization is now opt-out instead of opt-in, and this has irked many. Some of the ways this change affects us are subtle -- you "like" something instead of becoming a "fan," and now your friends' Facebook pages are littered with more "so-and-so likes" posts -- but what the Like button is really about, I think, is e-commerce.

Embedded all around the web (on 100,000 sites already), the Facebook Like button -- in its full incarnation, at least (the compact version will start showing up on No Film School soon) -- displays which of your friends "Like" something. Not just anyone -- your friends. This doesn't have many implications for a little old blog like this. But for a product that costs money -- say, a DVD -- that's where the real money is. Here's Mashable on the Like button's implications for product sales:

"90% of people trust recommendations from people they know, and Facebook’s “like” button is the perfect way to recommend a product to a friend... E-commerce conversion rates will increase. Imagine if you were looking to buy a t-shirt online and right next to the “Add to Cart” button you saw that four of your friends (along with their names and photos) had already bought the same t-shirt."

Actually, that's a bad example -- no one wants to be wearing the same T-shirt as their friend. But if you've got something else to sell -- like a movie -- it's probably time to "like" this development. That is, until Facebook tries to worm its way into the transaction business with Facebook Credits, which take an indefensibly high percentage of monetary transactions. PayPal takes 3% for faciliating commerce. Facebook Credits? 30%.

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