Facebook Allows @ Mention Tags of Friends to be Shortened

Once Facebook users have tagged a friend in a post or comment by typing the @ symbol or part of their name and selecting the name from a drop-down menu, they can now shorten the tag by deleting parts of the friend’s name. Previously, users had to leave the full name or the tag wouldn’t appear as an active link and trigger a notification for that friend. Facebook has also rolled out an improved version of automatic friend tag suggestions when users type a friend’s name with a capital letter but don’t use the @ symbol.

Tag shortening allows users to keep posts with tags shorter, increasing the likelihood that they’ll be read instead of skimmed by. It also prevents overly formal tags from interrupting otherwise informal posts or comments.

Facebook extended its tagging feature from photos, where it had proved incredibly viral, to allow tagging of friends, Pages, Events, Groups and more in status updates in September 2009. In March, Facebook enabled tagging in comments. The Facebook for Android app allows users to tag friends in posts, but the option isn’t available in the Facebook for iPhone app, other native mobile apps, or on m.facebook.com.

Facebook tested automatically showing the tagging drop down when users capitalized the first letter of a word in August, but the feature annoyed users who often weren’t trying to tag a friend. Facebook software engineer Tom Occhino now tells us this feature has been fully rolled out, but we’ve discovered it has been fixed to only show tag suggestions when users type five or more characters of a friend’s name, or type a whole name that is less than 5 characters. This should help expose the tagging feature who were mentioning the names of friends in posts but not actually tagging them.

When users tag a friend in a post, it appears highlighted. Users can now delete the end or beginning of the tag, such as the first or last name, but the remaining parts of the name will still appear highlighted, and will show up as links once the post is published.

If a friend has more than two names, a tag can be shortened to any adjacent names, meaning users could leave the first and middle name, or middle and last name, but they can’t just remove the middle name. Note that only tags of friends can be shortened, tags of Pages — tags of Pages, Events, Groups and other Facebook properties will become inactive if a user tries to shorten them.

Users sometimes skip text-heavy posts when reading their news feed, so the ability to shorten tags should increase engagement with tagged posts.

Facebook often strives to mimic communication in the physical world when designing its products. When mentioning a friend in conversation with mutual friends we often use only part of their name, but use the full name when speaking to those unfamiliar with that person. Now, the same option to choose how much of a name is mentioned depending on context is available in post tagging.

Update 3/5/2011 3:45pm PST: Facebook has also rolled out an improved version of automatic friend tag suggestions when users type a friend’s name with a capital letter but don’t use the @ symbol.

[Thanks to Lionel Bonnaz for the tip]