May 16, 2012
After a few months of testing Facebook have rolled out their new Trending Articles feature. Users moaning about changes to Facebook is nothing new, but has Trending Articles gone a step too far?
The new feature inserts links to articles, that your friends have allegedly been reading, in to your newsfeed. Facebook call this ‘frictionless sharing’, presumably because it required not intervention or action from your friends. Media outlets such as The Guardian and Yahoo have created apps that use the feature. In theory Trending Articles show what your many of your friends have been reading while logged into Facebook. Event though it does not identify which friends have read a particular article, in some peoples eyes, this puts yet another question mark over privacy and how behavioural data is leveraged online.
If these articles real are an aggregate view of the most popular content that your circle of friends are reading, then have we just taken a huge leap closer to “end stage group think”?
Of course a cynic might wonder if these so called trending articles are really anything more than premium advertising, the modern equivalent to Advetorial?
Those in favour of Trending Articles will argue that that Facebook’s customers will want to read what their friends have read. Is it really any different to the notion of adding the music that your friends are listening to on Spotify? After all your social media friends are your ‘friends’ for a reason (well at least in theory), so it should be likely that you might share common perspectives or at least be interested in their thinking.
At the end of the day, as with all things digital, the user can choose to not see these Trending Articles. But again, as with all things digital, it will be a relatively small minority that make an informed decision. Most will just let this wash over them… Welcome to Group Think digital style.