Facebook on Tuesday launched an updated plug-in that gives third-party Web sites access to the same user-moderator, user identity, and discussion-threading tools rolled-out recently across the social media site's user walls.
Some Web sites already have been using Facebook for their comments engine, in part because it requires people to register with their real identity, which encourages people to be more accountable and promotes more authentic discussions, Facebook said.
"Facebook facilitates quality conversations. The Comments plugin makes commenting online more like having a conversation in the real world by leveraging authentic and persistent identities to create more relevant and meaningful dialogue across the Web," a Facebook spokesperson told InformationWeek in an email. "As part of this, ranked comments help surface the most relevant comments from friends, friends of friends, and the most liked or active discussion threads, so the best comments will rise to the top, while spammy comments will be hidden from view."
Web sites can add the plug-in via one line of code. A number of sites -- including Discovery.com, Redbook.com, Examiner.com, SportingNews.com, SBNation.com, and Economist.com -- already have implemented the update, according to Facebook.
"This plugin will allow our Examiners and their engaged readers to connect to each other on the topics and information that is relevant to them and their cities like never before," said Suzie Austin, senior vice president of content at Examiner.com, in a statement.
The plug-in includes new moderation tools, as well as features designed to enhance the distribution and quality of comments across Web sites, said Ray He, a Facebook platform engineer, in a company blog. Social signals pull the highest quality comments for each user, showing users the most relevant comments from their friends and friends of friends, as well as the most liked or most active discussion threads, he said. The plug-in's technology also hides from view those comments marked as spam, He added.
"Users can obtain more context about a person by looking at the text next to a person's name, where they can see information such as mutual friends, work title, age, or current city. This information shown will always respect the person's privacy settings, and you will only be able to see information you can already see on Facebook," he said.
Administrators can opt to make comments "visible to everyone" or "has limited visibility." In addition, Web site administrators can blacklist words and ban users; if a comment appears with a blacklisted word or from a banished user, it automatically has limited visibility, said He. Moderators can administer these tasks either directly in the comments box or from the moderation dashboard, accessible from a link within the settings tab.
If users leave the "Post to Facebook" box in its default mode – checked -- when they post comments, the story will appear on their Facebook news feed, showing they have made a comment on the participating Web site. A link also will appear.
In addition, if a page administrator leaves a comment as a Facebook Page, the comment will appear on the page's wall, enabling those who have clicked "Like" on that page to see and join the conversation, He said. Last month, Facebook redesigned Facebook Pages, a move that will go into full effect on March 10. One new feature lets administrators interact with Facebook via the page's identity, allowing them to get notifications when fans interact with or post comments to a page; see activity in their newsfeed from pages they like; like other pages and feature them on the brand's page; and make comments as their page on other pages, according to Facebook.
"Friends and people who like the Page can then respond to the discussion by liking or replying to the comment directly in the News Feed on Facebook or in the Comments Box on your site. Discussion threads stay synced across Facebook and on the Comments Box on your site regardless of where the comment was made," He said about the new plug-in.
Web sites opting to use Facebook as its comments engine allow users to comment on stories or other content without forcing them to create yet another account or upload a photo, according to Facebook. The developer will expand its capabilities in the future, said He. "If the user does not have a Facebook account or is not logged into Facebook, she can comment with other accounts to leave a comment. We plan to add other login providers soon," he said.
If users' keep the "Post to Facebook" box checked, they can share their comments on Facebook, along with the original content. The system also syncs comments, whether they were made on Facebook or the original Web site, and threads them together into one conversation.
Those reading or commenting on Web site content can immediately mark others' comment as spam or abusive, Facebook said.
This marks Facebook's latest move to try and dominate the comments market, which includes developers such as Disqus, IntenseDebate, Echo, and Livefyre. In late January, Disqus unveiled a new theme -- Houdini -- which new users will access by default, said Chris Jennings, director of user experience at the company, in a blog.