Some Facebook users are seeing a new icon on News Feed items which link to sites that share activity back to a user’s Timeline. The color of the icon indicates whether clicking the link will generate a story alerting users’ friends that they read an article or watched a video.
A small icon appears next to the name of social news readers and social video apps within News Feed. When the icon is grey, sharing is disabled and users can click on a link knowing that others won’t be able to see their activity, for example, if a user has set the app’s default privacy to “Only Me.” When the icon is green, social sharing is enabled. Users can hover over the icon to see to whom their subsequent activity will be visible. These icons appear within the mobile and desktop News Feed, but not on users’ Timelines.
Earlier this month we saw Facebook testing a similar functionality, but this latest iteration is more ambiguous. The new icon is so subtle that most users will not even notice it, and without any additional context, the icon does not seem to immediately represent social sharing. In fact, on mobile devices, there is no way to find out what the icon signifies. If Facebook does end up picking an abstract icon to designate its “frictionless sharing” applications, it will need to educate users what it means and where they should look for it.
For now, the company seems to be testing a number of options in order to find a future balance between making sharing as easy as possible and still letting people have control over their experience. This is increasingly important as websites and apps can now ask for permissions once and then automatically publish stories to Ticker, Timeline and News Feed when users take action like reading an article, listening to a song or watching a video. Since these apps are so new, there is a lot of variation in how developers make users aware of what they are agreeing to share and how they give users the option to opt-out. By experimenting on its own site and giving third-party developers some freedom to try different approaches, Facebook can discover best practices and ultimately define policies. Until then, some users might be hesitant to add any new applications or click on news and video links.
Other users might want to set certain apps to be visible to “Only Me.” This gives users a chance to experience new apps without fear of over-sharing, and the option to chronicle their activity for themselves alone. Users can later widen the scope of who can see their activity once they trust an app. The easiest way to do this is from the activity log. See the last two screenshots below for an example.