April 19, 2013

Part I: What’s Not to “Like”?

Bob Hansmann

Facebook likesApril 21st represents the third anniversary of the Facebook Like button. On the day of the launch, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "we are building a web where the default is social." For the Like button’s third birthday party, there are a number of groups who will cheer this socialization of the web. However, you may not Like everyone who will be celebrating.

Facebook will be partying, if only because the Like button has enjoyed much greater success than many other Facebook innovations. In an average minute, there are more than 382,000 Likes posted on Facebook. More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook via the Like button. There have now been approximately 2.7 billion unique Likes on Facebook, meaning more than 955 billion in an average year.

Many businesses will celebrate how the Like button has allowed them to easily track the interest level of the content they offer, and to connect Facebook visitors to content on their other web properties. It was recently estimated that 10,000 new websites connect to Facebook every day.

Many customers will also celebrate as they receive more value from their online experience with these businesses, making it a win-win for everyone involved. In addition, Like buttons can be used to initiate downloads, redirect users and serve as a “Like gate,” which allows users to access hidden, bonus or exclusive content.

But employees fired for ‘Liking’ content their employers disapproved of will not be celebrating. And Facebook’s own celebrations may be dampened due to a lawsuit from the widow of a Dutch programmer. Her husband reportedly patented the concept of a Like button in 1998 for use on his Surfbook social network.

These two examples bring us to another faction who is no doubt praising the introduction of the Like button. The Facebook lawyers and those arguing for freedom of speech legal protection when they use the Like button will have many reasons to make merry.

Finally, the cyber-underground will likely be partying, due to success in abusing the Like button. “Likejacking” scams have popped up periodically, almost since the introduction of the feature. Whether in a form of click fraud, or redirecting users to malware and other malicious content outside of Facebook through the ubiquity of the Like button on web pages, Like means money to cybercriminals.

Recently, Websense Security Labs blog warned of holiday-themed scams using the Like button. Similar features in Pinterest and other online services have also been abused by cybercriminals throughout the last year.

In many ways, the like button may have incidentally facilitated a step beyond Zuckerberg’s vision; a web where the default threat is social. In my next blog post, I’ll detail five best practices for Facebook liking.

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