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Dear Internet: please move the share buttons from the web page to the browser
93 points by jacobn on Sept 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments
There's been more than one mock-the-silliness-that-is-ten-share-buttons-for-an-unshared-blog-post blog posts.

The mobile browsers have already shown the way - a single share button, share with any service (yes, there needs to be some open bring-your-own-service functionality like we already do for search).

I'm hoping one or two people who are working on one of the major browsers would read this and "simply put it in" and we'd eventually all be living with a cleaner, faster loading web as the on-page buttons go the way of the dodo.

Not to mention that it would actually be really useful.

The problem is, they work (for a certain definition of "work").

On one website that I work on, implementing one of those stupid "like us on Facebook" popups (in the lower right of the screen) almost doubled the number of likes the page had over a couple of weeks.

Now, whether the number of Facebook likes your page has is a useful metric to you is another matter, which is why I put the word "work" in quotes above...

Is it any surprise that the sort of people who are still actually using Facebook would be the sort of people who would click on something as ridiculous as that

"Still using Facebook"

It's like you're actively denying the fact that it is, TODAY, the largest and most used social network in history.

Would you at least let it BEGIN it's user decline before you call it dead?

Let me guess: You ran to G+ on Day 1 (because one large advertising company is worse than another large advertising + email + search company...)

Mark my words, within the next 3 years facebook will begin to decline. 90% of the people I speak to say they don't use facebook anymore because it's got boring.

If your sample of people that you surveyed was representative of facebook users on the whole, then you wouldn't need 3 years to see the decline of facebook . It should have been happening right now because as you said, 90% of the people you've surveyed no longer use it.

It's fair to say that your sample group is totally flawed.

Well, I've heard of many people saying (and I still go to school, so my survey is kind of relevant) that they 1. have multiple accounts, like for games or 2. are bored by facebook/ annoyed by the stream of useless stuff, or even 3. simply hardly ever go online (as in, measured in weeks, or months)

Once again, the anecdotal evidence does not conform with the usage numbers released every so often that show facebook users spending massive amounts of time(average of 400 minutes per month per user).

A lot of people may whine that they are "bored" but that doesn't mean they don't use the site. That is the problem with going on anecdotes--they often represent what people say instead of actually do.

Exactly. Bored people go to Facebook.com. Bored? Type Facebook.com. That's what people do. And considering the influx of "content" pages, like George Takei's, which provide continuous content updates all day long, I can see why people check back frequently when they're bored.

Subscribe to 5-10 "content" feeds and your wall will always have another joke or post to read...

Many people do this, I imagine.

If you want to play this game, then sure: Mark my words, Google+ will never replace Facebook. When Facebook declines, it will be due to genre-fatigue, not unit-fatigue.

McDonalds is one of the largest restaurant chains in the world. Does that make it good?

It would not exist if not for all the shit they do to make the food cheap enough to keep their doors open.

Facebook == The McDonalds of social networks.

Can we just remove all the share crap that allows these so-called "social media services" AKA amoral data collectors to collect data on any and everyone who happens to load a page?

Call me a luddite, but... I got along for 30+ years without Facebook, Myspace, Twitter et al. We had gopher and we liked it!

What we didn't have (or didn't notice) was a bunch of AOL style butt-heads shoving useless advertising at us.

For what it's worth, I try to filter them out but keeping up with the filtering is getting tiresome.

We had gopher and we liked it!

I take it that you are speaking for your generation, yes? If so, I think much of my generation would not like gopher and does like facebook etc.

Re: advertising - you hate on data collection and at the same time call out "useless advertising." A core goal of data collection is to make advertising more relavant and with things like retargeting, I think things have improved for the better.

What targeted advertising means, apparently, is that if you look up Warby Parker once to see what they do, you'll get nothing but Warby Parker ads for the next month. I'm getting so sick of empty eyeglasses staring at me, you can't even begin to imagine. If that's targeted advertising, you couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with it.

Amen. I don't think more than 10% of the targeted advertising I was exposed to ever appealed to me.

Buy some jeans on Amazon for a gift, get ads for all kinds of crappy jeans from Amazon. I like and wear one type of Levi's jeans. Not one Levi's ad ever hit me.

Buy some Little Mermaid crap for my niece, see above.

Buy Alabama Shakes debut album on ITunes, get all kinds of ads for music I wouldn't listen to in a dentists chair.

As much as you'd like to say that is not targeted, most people would agree your example qualifies as targeted advertising. More importantly, the conversion numbers agree. Retargeting is known to get 3-5x more clicks than non-re-targeted ads.

Could it be even better? Yes. Is it better than before we had adtech and data collection that make this possible today? Absolutely.

I guess saying "my generation" is accurate though I know a few in their 20s that dislike the social media crap.

Have you used gopher? You get the data you asked for and nothing else. 90% of the time, that is what I want. You like Facebook because you haven't been exposed to anything of higher quality with less money-grubbing involved.

Targeted advertising gets it wrong, at least for me. As a comment below stated, one look at Justin Beeber (my child looked up something quick on my computer) and I'm targeted with teen girl crap for weeks. And I really mean weeks. It drove me to spend part of a weekend setting up opt-out plugins for 3 different browsers.

Not going to work.

A website operators won't take a gamble that a visitor may or may not have a sharing widget built into his browser, so it's a safer bet for them to keep the sharing buttons on the page.

Thats the point I suppose. Make it as prevalent as possible.

Use Ghostery (http://www.ghostery.com/) or Do Not Track (http://www.abine.com/dntdetail.php), or various others addons like these, and you will have the problem partially solved.

"(yes, there needs to be some open bring-your-own-service functionality like we already do for search)"

There is, actually. At least on my mobile operating system.

Yup. Android Intents provide this system perfectly. Any app can hook into the intent, provide you a list, and you can select action defaults.

Hopefully Web Intents[1] will bring the same to every browser.

[1]: http://webintents.org/

Hopefully, yes. Go download the latest Chrome Canary to play with the current implementation - it's already pretty cool.

And the Sharing intent on Windows 8 too.

Or, as they like to call it, charm. :D

There was an effort to put sharing into Firefox. I'm not sure of the current status - it looks like it may have gone stale.

See https://wiki.mozilla.org/Labs/F1 and http://f1.mozillamessaging.com/

I tried that out for a while when it was first announced, but it didn't seem to work as well as, say, Android's Intents. And as you say, appears to have gone stale.

I suppose this is the scenario that Web Intents (http://webintents.org/) are intended to deal with.

EDIT: specifically http://webintents.org/share

...and there actually seems to be something going on with regards to sharing in Firefox still. According to [1] it's targeted at Firefox 17, though I haven't noticed anything yet (I'm on Firefox Aurora 17 now). It seems like it has a much broader scope than just sharing.

[1] https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox_Social_Integration

Sharing something easily is one thing, but they seem to be planning to provide a newsfeed/wall with this. That'd be a big distraction that I hope they keep away...

For people spending their days on Facebook it might be an improvement. It does sound like a huge addon though and I agree that it'd probably be best to make most of that non-default.

The problem is, how keenly will the various services let something like Firefox take their newsfeed? This is exactly what Twitter for example is trying to prohibit with their ToS. Just sharing is a lot more durable.

It would be great if the sharing functionality is built in browser, but the control on what sharing services to show remains with developers. This could be achieved with some meta tags, or something. But it'll make sense if the developer can choose which all sharing platform link should be shown while sharing.

I said so, because there are a different kind of audience for different websites, so generic sharing options wouldn't be a good idea.

Well, latest version of Safari has gone along this road which is nice but completely limited, but I've found that I prefer being able to use bookmarklets from the Bookmark Bar to have sharing, but then that's dependent on the user having X installed for Y and there's no clean way to check. Plus you'd need the ability to rapidly update for multiple services, deal with sharing changes and so on, so it's a sticky issue.

One way or another people will opt out.

Betting on the integrated browser's support for sharing might be better than plastering ugly overlays over interesting content. Most 'this makes the site unreadable' stuff these days are 'Share on ..' widgets.

Today, most people around me (somehow inspired by my rants) block this stuff, unconditionally. Because it is 99% crap and the 1% where you want to share something there's the old way of copying the url to your social platform of choice.

So - I'd put it different: Dear Internet, please restrain yourself in the use of obnoxious "share" widgets and thingies or people will treat them just like ads. By ignoring or filtering them.

You have to realize that "most people around you" are probably not representative of internet users at large. With the current state of things, browsers would probably need to have implemented these features for a couple years before most people get used to using them for sharing.

You're perfectly right - and I do realize that.

On the other hand: I'm part of the group of people that installs/defines other setups (for friends, family - people that don't bother). All of those will never see these 'share' buttons, because _I_ decide they are overused and often harmful.

I guess at one point AdBlock was used by a minority as well, but now it its userbase is huge. I predict (and of course I might be very wrong about this, I don't claim to know the future here) that with the current (over-)usage of 'share' thingies we'll see the same scenario. It starts off as reasonable (simple ads), becomes annoying/slows down the reading experience/hides content (sounds familiar?) and will be despised by more and more users until even people outside of my (and similar minded people's) influence find a solution on LifeHacker on how to avoid these things.

And frankly, that 'people getting used to them' argument seems weak. There are gazillion different (and most ugly, from this particular pov) ways to present a 'share' sidebar or somesuch thing. It's hardly what I'd call a unified and well-defined experience.

I guess at one point AdBlock was used by a minority as well, but now it its userbase is huge.

But still a minority. Adblock for Chrome has ~10M users, Chrome itself has more than 310 million. That's just a little over 3%.

EDIT: apparently, ADP has 5M more, which means the total is still less than 5%.

Plus the users of my browser of choice


Certainly no majority overall, but a huge number of people that never look at ads, because .. ads sucked too much.

So who gets to decide which buttons should be in browsers by default? Sure, Facebook, Google+, Twitter are obvious. How about Pinterest? Or X, Y and Z which might be not popular in US but popular elsewhere?

Why not let users decide? Let it be in browser settings and the users can choose which service they share to, by default.

Possibly there could be a meta tag describing which share buttons should be shown on the page--even what the particular share link should be when they're clicked.

A bit like Apple did with their "app banners": http://david-smith.org/blog/2012/09/20/implementing-smart-ap...

why not just put them all there and let the user decide which ones they want shown. I mean, it doesn't matter if there's a stumbleupon thing if I never use stumbleupon. Put 'em all in. Make it easy for users to add new ones (or small ones) and hide which ones they don't want.

Flock tried it, a bunch of different ways. People just weren't all that into it.

True! I did like it back in the days. What's the state of Flock right now? The website claims it's not dead yet ;)

Flock's big problem was, of course, that you had to convince people to install a whole new browser.

If they could redesign it as a browser plugin, it might have a shot.

Windows 8 tries to solve this problem with sharing built into the OS, similar to how intents work in Android.

Your dream is never going to become a reality in the way you're asking.

As a feature of the desktop browser, users could turn share buttons off. Embedded in the page, they can't. That is why the site operator put them there in the first place: to maximise exposure.

Like someone already said, embedded buttons can be turned off with AdBlock. Normal users won't do that, but they won't tweak their browser settings either.

They can already live in the browser by way of addons - if you use delicious then install the addon. If you don't, don't.

The solution is not for browser makers to host the share buttons, but for content creators to stop treating users like push-button monkeys and realise that if I want to share it on facebook I'll do that of my own volition and if I don't then a little blue and white f in a box at a cute angle is not going to sway me one iota.

Web page creators: It is not your job to make sharing easier.

> Web page creators: It is not your job to make sharing easier.

Actually, it pretty much is. That is one of the key ways in which sites gain audience, and it's a huge topic of concern among website creators, owners, and programmers.

Shares drive traffic, and both the website owner and the social network want you to ask yourself on each shareable page, "Is this something worth sharing?" Some people will say yes and that's a win for everyone.

You can say the on-site button doesn't do anything, but it really does. It sends a signal: Other people think this content is worth sharing, you might think so too.

There are other models for sharing content, for example a site only needs a few self-interested posters on HN or Reddit to get traction there, then the voting system and "front page effect" take over. But for a decentralized social site like Facebook, you need a good number of seed posters to decide, "It might be in my self-interest to share this." That only happens with prompting.

I don't think you're the average user. When I temporarily removed sharing buttons from a site I work on, we received a number of support emails complaining that it was "no longer possible" to share the content on Facebook. Many people simply can't be bothering opening Facebook, copying and pasting and link, and clicking "Post". For many, if a site doesn't feature a "Like" button, it simply can't be shared.

Unfortunately, your solution of enabling the user to install an add-on is not tenable for the vast number of users who don't even realise what a "browser" is. Apple's Mobile Safari solution works because it makes sharing simple and frictionless for the majority.

Yeah, the problem is that users don't do it of their own volition. Social media buttons do change user behaviour. It might not sway you, but if you track social media activity on your site with analytics, you'll see a large difference.


"content creators to stop treating users like push button monkeys"

Good luck with that approach.

An alternative approach is to show users how they are being treated like push-button monkeys. All it takes is some users who are not willing to tolerate it who demand better treatment; then other users see they are not having to deal with the same crap and they demand the same treatment. And then, like magic, web developers change their tune, almost like... push-button monkeys.

It's truly magical.

I think we would soon have sharing in-built within the OS. Mountain Lion already has it while it would not take much time for Windows 8 to implement this into their OS as well (if they already do not). The lines between a tablet/phone OS and a desktop/laptop OS are blurring and we can very well see that with Mountain Lion and Windows 8. Therefore, not just the browsers but every bit of functionality in the OS which needs a "Share" will have it by default.

This would be great as long as it's an open, agnostic API and not just something cooked into the OS vendor's bundled apps.

Good point. I think we are moving in that direction. The reason being the OS vendor does not own most of the "Share" ecosystem.

I can already hear our customers ordering page enhancements that show an arrow or a bubble pointing somewhat in the direction of where that FB button should be in the current visitors browser.

We know that problem with the "Add page to your home screen" button. Of course, it has to disappear when the user opens your website from home screen. And god forbid Apple changes anything - like releasing an 8" tablet.

If we'd always get what we wish for, live could be so easy. And boring, probably.

The trouble is that the Long Tail of Social Services is there for a reason. Yea, maybe you are happy having your users share on Facebook and Twitter, but Jane's Buck Hunter Haven wants to have a RateVenison share link on her blog posts.

Closer to home, how many posts on Hacker News have an actual "share on Hacker News" link on them. Quite a few. How are you going to know which buttons go on which sites?

Just combine two browser extensions in Chrome:

1. Adblock Plus [1] to remove in-site social widgets [2] and ads.

2. A social extension, pick your favorite, there are too many.

[1] https://adblockplus.org/en/

[2] https://adversity.googlecode.com/hg/Antisocial.txt

In Firefox you can use the plugin Share Me Not that prevents third-party buttons embebbed by sites from tracking you until you actually click on them.

This plugin don't remove the social buttons from the page, just disables them.

Thanks for the Antisocial AdBlock list btw!

... so that I can disable them (easily).

Rockmelt actually does this. It's a browser built on top of Google Chrome. Along with a bunch of other features, it has one button in the top right where you can take any page you're on and post it to Twitter, as a Facebook status, or on a friend's Facebook wall.

I agree with the idea, but please don't put them into the browser but in a "social media" extension. I have never clicked on one of these buttons (in fact, I block them), so cluttering the default interface of my browser with them would be very annoying.

Chrome canary and Dev channel have a built in Share button that fires a Share webintent

What I'd like is an extension that just removes them entirely (an anti-social browser?)

For one, I don't use them. For two, they cause a cluttered mess. For three, I don't want all those little snippets tracking my page loads.


This is exactly that, and more. Thanks.

Adblock for Chrome with this filter https://adversity.googlecode.com/hg/Antisocial.txt does exactly that

We have them on Android and iOS (probably Windows Phone as well). OSX 10.8 now has tweet and facebook functionality as well. Are the other operating systems and browsers social enough? Should they be?

Dear internet please remove share button from the web. From EVERYWHERE. :)

What about sharing option in Android, and now in Windows 8? It seems to be more versatile to embed this functionality into OS rather than a browser. We're getting there in my opinion ;)

As a user I would love to agree but I can't. On a https website Chrome blocks additional JavaScript. Thus I don't see another way than having share button on the web page. Am I wrong?

A good start would be to have the user's identity to be managed by the browser (with something like browserID). The rest could just be extensions, for those who care.

I thought adblock can do this until things get better. Apparently I'm correct http://superuser.com/a/454634

I am surprised no one mentioned web intents. It is happening and it is happening quickly. Launch chrome canary to see some UX (although not completely working yet)

I have installed Tweet extension in the morning. Chrome canary version installed share button on the right side of navigation bar, it's very useful feature!

Share buttons are part of the the content, not the chrome.

Just like "Would you like fries with that?" this is just: "would you like to advertise my page for me?". It'll only get worse before it gets better.

These buttons are sources of data for Facebook, Twitter etc. That's how they track their user over the Web. So no incentive for them to remove them

Yeah, not sure what the point of this post is. I've got a share button in my desktop, tablet and phone browsers (not that I neccessarily want them). These are for tracking and branding. Facebook, Twitter et. Al have not only implanted tracking widgets on nearly every site, they've also got little banner ads. For free!

Huh? The share button in your desktop or your phone is not making requests to Facebook or Twitter, thus it's not tracking you. For instance, when you integrate twitter's buttons on your website, you must opt-in the "do not track" which means that otherwise, anyone visiting the website will be tracked by twitter and the data is kept for some days. Unless of course if that person has an extension like disconnect.me

This would essentially lock out new "social media" sites as the effort of manually installing a share button is going to be too much effort.

It's already built into modern operating systems. (OSX, iOS, Android)

Your request should really be "Please get rid of share buttons from websites"

Working on a portfolio site now and managed to convince the clients not to have any share buttons. It looks so much better.

Why don't browser operators just suck it out of the page?

It's not like the page can display something the browser doesn't want it to.

Latest chrome comes with a share button that works with webintents.

Try RockMelt

Why has no one mentioned that this already exists.

Web Intents, borrowing in fact from Androids ability to share from anywhere to anywhere. (and it is actually rather Android unique)

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