Facebook is courting journalists and digital media professionals with the hopes of making the Facebook Like button ubiquitous. The company's goal is to weave its social graph into media sites as the fabric of the Internet — but why do Facebook's social tools still have a bug a year after it was identified?
The Facebook bug can cause stories “liked” or recommended on media sites to create corrupt links, sending users to a blank page, which looks like this:
I noticed this bug when logging into Google Analytics (which is what any Web journalist does when she gets into the office). It appeared there were a pretty substantial number of pageviews coming around the same time from a story published days earlier. I'd like to think it was because everyone had just discovered my useful story and was wildly forwarding it all at once ― but as it turns out, this was not the case.
A link generated by our Facebook “recommend” (also sometimes called “like”) button was messing up the traffic figures. It turns out this issue has plagued other media companies; it was raised last year
but still hasn't been fixed.
The link contains a query causing the browser to constantly refresh and serve duplicate pages, which messes up Web analytics and confuses search engines.
Our CEO, Prescott Shibles, did some investigating and identified a solution (feel free to skip to the next section if you don't want to get technical). The problem can be solved with a 301 redirect
, which is a search-engine-friendly way to change a page's URL
. Basically, you need to have your developer configure your Web server so that when it sees a page request ending with “?fb_xd_fragment=” it redirects both users and search engines to the actual page's url.
Facebook and media companies
The Facebook Help Center, on the other hand, wasn't any help. Facebook has made strides to cozy up with publishers and the media industry has quickly gotten on board, recognizing the platform's proven potential to build community. So now that every publisher has a Like button
, where's the love, Facebook?
I'm pretty bullish about leveraging social media, but we should still question the platforms themselves. While we've written about how media companies can engage users on Facebook
, we've also written about why publishers should be cautious of Facebook
. Even though our team was able to resolve the minor Like bug, it was a reminder that publishers need to stay in control of their relationships with Facebook ― and any place we put out content, for that matter.
I recently considered joining Facebook's latest media outreach campaign: the "Journalists on Facebook
” community page. Even as a journalist who champions the social value of the Web, I questioned whether to be one of Facebook's serfs. I joined anyway, of course.
After all, Facebook is a groundbreaking publishing platform. Just last week a publisher told me he credits the service for making his advertisers more receptive to digital innovation. We can't deny that social media can add a lot of value to media companies and to the brands of journalists behind them.
But if Facebook wants to be a real partner to publishers, the company needs to work more on its actual publisher offering and tools and less on its PR campaign to reach out to the media. I "like" you Facebook, but if you really want to be my friend, why not spend less resources reaching out to media companies and more resources making our Web analytics accurate?