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The Recommendations Bar is one of Facebook’s newest social plugins, and the first to integrate the social reading and frictionless sharing capabilities of Open Graph. Put simply, the Recommendations Bar allows any website to implement the same social reading and social recommendation features found in “social reader” style applications from the Washington Post, The Guardian or USA Today. The plugin is still in beta, which means that when installed, it is only viewable to developers and testers associated with the website or application. Normal site visitors cannot yet see or interact with the plugin. However, once the Recommendations Bar becomes publicly accessible, we expect it to be a highly effective tool for any news site looking to increase referral traffic and reader engagement.
The recommendations bar is displayed on either the bottom right or bottom left corner of the user’s browser window:
When the user gets to the bottom of an article, the Recommendations Bar expands to reveal two to five recommended pages from the same website:
The Recommendations Bar enables three essential social functions:
The Recommendations Bar prompts readers with other articles when they finish the one they’re reading, using Social Graph data to recommend the most relevant articles. This includes articles that a user’s friends have liked or articles that have received a high volume of likes and comments. Essentially, the same “secret sauce” that goes into ranking News Feed posts and Comments is leveraged in the Recommendations Bar, ensuring that readers are recommended articles that are relevant to their interests and social connections.
Omnipresent Like Button that “follows” the user
The Recommendations Bar creates a Like button that doesn’t move, even when users scrolls or resize their browser windows. Many sites currently struggle to determine the most effective placement for the Like button. Should it appear at the top near the byline? At the end of the article near the comments section? As part of the sidebar? The Recommendations bar is a much more elegant solution, as it eliminates the need to place a Like button in a particular location on a given page — its position is relative to the user’s browser window, not relative to site content. While this can be done using relatively simple HTML and CSS, Facebook’s solution is even simpler to implement, and the sizing and display has been thought through down to the pixel.
Social reading through frictionless sharing
The Recommendations Bar allows users to turn on social reading, the same functionality that’s available within canvas applications like the Washington Post Social Reader, USAToday + Me, and The Guardian. Except while those companies spent time and money creating a canvas application within Facebook, the Recommendations Bar provides the same functionality on any pre-existing website, with minimal effort. If you’ve seen stories pop up in your News Feed and Ticker like Brendan read “Facebook CEO speaks out against SOPA, PIPA” on Washington Post Social Reader, the Recommendations Plugin can generate the same kind of rich Open Graph story.