Facebook brings Recommendations Bar plugin out of beta, but it no longer shares what users read

Facebook today officially launched the Recommendations Bar plugin, which serves up recommended articles to readers as they finish reading another.

When a person reaches the end of an article or after a certain amount of time has elapsed, a small pop-up appears at the bottom of a webpage, suggesting other articles to read — including those that friends have Liked or shared. The module also prompts readers to Like or recommend the article they’re on.

The plugin, which was released in beta in September 2011, previously integrated the social reading and sharing capabilities of Open Graph, so users could post what they’ve read to Timeline. But it seems sometime last month, Facebook changed directions and now the plugin doesn’t work as a social reader, though it still includes a Like button for users to actively recommend articles to their friends. A spokesperson says, “We tested it with social reading functionality but ultimately chose to focus the bar on Likes and Recommends, which is more suited for a broader set of apps and sites.”

The company has received criticism for its “frictionless sharing” apps, which post what users read, watch or listen to. But we wondered whether the previous iteration of Recommendations Bar would help publishers convert their sites to Timeline apps and create a more unified experience across the web so users wouldn’t be confused about how their reading activity would be shared. Now that the company has backed away from offering its own social reader plugin, the user experience will continue to be fragmented across different sites. Third-party companies like ShareThis, however, are hoping fill the void with their own Open Graph sharing widgets.

Facebook’s Recommendations Bar is already being used on sites such as Mashable, Wetpaint and The Mirror. Facebook has offered similar functionality with the Recommendations Box, but that module sits off to the side of an article and because it remains static, isn’t always as noticeable as the new plugin. The social network says early tests show three times higher clickthrough on the stories it recommends through Recommendations Bar than through the Recommendations Box.

Information about how to add the social plugin to your site is available here.

Newly launched Recommendations Bar

Previous version of Recommendations Bar, including social reading options

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