Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Facebook Pushes Private Sharing With New "Send" Button

In a move to support private sharing, Facebook today is launching a companion to its public “Like” button for publishers called the “Send” button.

While to “Like” a Web page is to share your appreciation for it with all your Facebook friends, display it publicly on your profile, and allow the Web site you have “Liked” to publish updates to your Facebook news feed, the “Send” button shares the page with a smaller group on a case-by-case basis.

When a user clicks to “Send” a page on a participating site–launch partners include Gilt Groupe, 1-800-Flowers.com, Huffington Post, People.com, Orbitz and Last.fm–he or she can type in the names of individual Facebook friends, Facebook groups, or email addresses (click to enlarge the screenshot below).

On those participating sites, the “Like” button will appear right next to the “Send” button. Other publishers, including the 2.5 million that already use the “Like” button, can add the “Send” button with a short bit of code.

Though this terminology may be confusing for users, as well as for Web sites that already offer many ways to share their content, it reflects a commitment by Facebook to private sharing.

Facebook is often accused of overreaching to make user activity more public. Many people interpret the company’s trajectory as an ongoing progression toward more exposure of users’ private information for the purposes of advertising. And the public nature of the “Like” button is at the center of that thesis.

But the “Send” button does the opposite: it only shares a Web page privately with a select group.

Facebook’s tools for private sharing are its user message system and its Groups feature, launched last October. The company said today that more than 50 million Facebook Groups have been created, many of them dedicated to families, roommates and co-workers. Along with the “Send” button, Facebook is giving Groups additional features today, including photo albums, polls, and administrator roles.

Will private sharing displace public sharing? “There’s a lot of content that isn’t relevant to everyone,” said Facebook Director of Product Peter Deng in a phone interview with NetworkEffect this morning. He said that lots of content goes unshared on Facebook because it is not appropriate for a user’s entire group of friends. Often it’s mundane things, or highly personal things, that go unshared.

“When I got my wedding photos I made those public, but when I was planning the wedding and the bachelor party, that communication is more intimate,” Deng said.

“We see the private communication as supplementing the rest of communication on Facebook,” Deng said. “We haven’t seen status updates or photo sharing going down at all [since the launch of Groups],” he added.

Meanwhile, Google recently introduced its own version of the “Like” button called +1, which allows users to show their approval of search results. It is entirely public.

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik