Friday, 30 April 2010

Facebook's 'Like' button replaces links

The CNN website includes an article about the new "Like" button which has recently been introduced by Facebook. If this new feature takes off, then the article suggests that this form of "social links" will create a potential problem for Google in the way that it measures links between sites, and how these could have a significant impact on the 'link value' used by its algorithm to help determine the order of search results.

By using the new "Like" button, websites can drive visitor traffic from Facebook by including Like buttons on their pages - every Like posts an update to a user's Facebook page. In addition, a website can customize its experience for users so that if you're logged into Facebook the 'liked' content can be ranked by the source as well as by friends on the social networking site.

Since these "social links" are related to a specific user they can potentially work better than the standard links that exist between websites. Facebook wants to replace this open system of links between pages with the "social links" (or Likes) that it controls. As the article explains, Google and other search engines won't have full access to all these Likes, so the company best positioned to rank on the web will be Facebook.

Some experts are therefore concerned that Facebook will begin to 'stockpile' all of the personal information and preferences of users. This can help place Facebook in a much more dominant position to control the search results on the main search engines and so companies will rush to implement the new "social plug-ins" from this networking site. Consequently Facebook may build a stronger base to 'organize the web' so that optimisation of Facebook's 'Like' buttons and user base will become a new focus for SEO.

The article concludes that advocates of the 'Open Web' have reason to be concerned and privacy experts are also raising red flags. Google is expected to be concerned and will fight any structures that will affect their search algorithms, although ignoring the role of these "Like" buttons may be one option. Because without access to the 'stitches that bind web pages together', the article suggests that the search engine could falter.

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