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2/1/2011
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Facebook To Open Comments Platform For External Sites

The social media site could power the reader feedback sections of news sites, blogs, and other digital publishing outlets.

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In its ongoing initiative to woo the publishing community, Facebook is working on an expanded commenting system for third-party Web sites that is expected to launch within the next few weeks.

The system -- which reportedly is similar in many respects to those offered by developers such as Disqus, Intense Debate, Echo, and Livefyre -- comes on the heels of Facebook's hiring of executives from Newsweek and the Daily Beast, and meetings with several large publishing organizations. Facebook is in discussions with several media outlets and blogs, CNET reported.

"Based on feedback from developers about ways to improve our existing comments plug-in, we're testing an updated plug-in that leverages authenticity and social relevancy to increase distribution. We're testing the plug-in on our Facebook Blog and Developer Blog but have no further details to share at this time," a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Facebook's comments technology could become the engine that powers the comments section of the often-popular reader-feedback sections in newspapers, blogs, and digital publications, according to CNET. With its new tool, Facebook will manage the login and publishing, will cross-promote comments on users' Facebook walls, and could promote them on publications' fan pages, too, said CNET. It is unclear how Facebook will integrate its "Like" button into the comments capability, the report said. In addition, the tool will allow people to use Google and Twitter logins, and will include comment synching between Facebook and the publisher's site.

In addition, this new version of Facebook's comments will assign users an aggregated credibility score, said Inside Facebook. The scoring, based on a percentage, is calculated using total likes and the number of times a comment has been marked unhelpful or spam, the story said.

Today, publications can use Facebook's developer API to let users connect to their Facebook accounts. They also have the option of creating social comments into a widget of messages, and users frequently can post messages announcing they have commented on a site, article, or video.

Facebook recently made changes to its interactions with some third-party comment apps, according to Echo. "Some of you may have received an email from Facebook announcing the deprecation of some of their API features after January 7, 2011," wrote Echo, which will release its newest comment offering -- e2 -- on Feb. 8. "Those soon-to-be-deprecated features are currently used by Echo to integrate with Facebook, more specifically to handle the API key and the sharing of comments. We are working on an update in order to maintain the current Facebook functionality in Echo. No actions are required on the publisher's side."

In using these third-party commenting tools, users have the choice of creating pseudonyms or of remaining anonymous. However, Facebook mandates that accountholders use their legal names, which could concern privacy and free-speech advocates.

"Part of the privacy problem is that there is a long tradition in the blogging world of allowing anonymous comments. Facebook requires true user identity. So, Facebook's entry into the comment space will further erode online anonymity," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told InformationWeek.

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