Down with Share Buttons

You’ve inevitably seen them: “Like” buttons, “Share This” buttons, “Tweet” buttons. They’re everywhere. It seems as though every article or page on every website has one or more of these types of buttons. They are supposedly there to make it easy for end-users to post links to specific websites on their Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ news streams, increasing exposure to a wider audience.

However, there is a drawback to adding these things to your website and I’m beginning to question if they even need to be there in the first place. By adding these snippets of code to your page, you are consenting to providing Facebook and the others to utilize those links as they see fit.

For example, on Facebook terms and conditions, it simply states the following under the heading “Special Provisions Applicable to Social Plugins“:

You give us permission to use and allow others to use such links and content on Facebook.

Facebook and Google use the data collected for a variety of reasons, but most importantly, they use the data collected for monetary gain. This is accomplished by tracking visitors to your website, seeing where the came from, where they leave to, and what types of things they click on. All of these analytics are used to provide targeted advertising in their services. Simply viewing another website about sports equipment will lead Facebook to direct sporting equipment related advertisements on your home page.  As long as they have Facebook’s social plugins on, any website can unknowingly provide your browsing history to Facebook and other major organizations.

Fortunately, Apple and Google provide opt-in tools for preventing this type of tracking from happening. Safari’s Private Browsing Mode and Chrome’s Incognito Mode effectively stop this data from being collecting, but the end-user is now inconvenienced to adding security measures just to browse websites. While anonymous browsing is a suitable solution, it shouldn’t have to be that way.

In Safari on both desktop and mobile varieties, there is already a button to share every single page on your website. Other browsers have this as well, in addition to having the ability to add plugins for enabling simple methods for sharing content on social networks. So, why are we cluttering up our websites with these social plugins that not only look ugly, but also serve as a distraction from the core content? In my opinion, we shouldn’t.

The argument against removing them would be that it makes it more difficult for end-users to share content. However, I don’t think we should be giving up our analytics to provide, what we assume, to be the preferred method of sharing, by adding these buttons to our site. The Print button is in your browser. The Save button is in your browser. Most browsers already have a Share button in them. Let the end-user decide how they want to share their content with their network, but don’t assume that having a “Like” button right on the page is going to make me want to share your content with Facebook more frequently.

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