Facebook’s Highlight Feature: The Bad, the Worse and the Ugly

Okay, before we begin this article, let me first present one important figure to you!

The average percentage of people reading your status update is a mere 12%!

This is even lower for those who are less active on Facebook, as the update will not go as viral as those of regular Facebook users. Viewing this as a potential gold mine, team Zuckerberg is now experimenting with a new paid feature for the average user. This feature called, “Highlight” will allow you to make your status more viral in return of a small fee.

As of today, a tiny percentage of Facebook’s 15 million users are able to see a dialog box like the one below. Some are also getting an option to highlight the post for free. This is mainly because Facebook wants to see if users are interested in this feature  in the first place. As such, the highlight feature is already available presently for other posts like video links, photo and video uploads and shares.

What I make of it:

Personally, I think Facebook is the latest to fall prey to the investor trap. Though this method of making money is surely going to help the World’s largest social media platform rake in the ‘moolah’ and delight the investors, it is surely going to be looked down upon by many.

Firstly, Facebook’s USP of being a free platform is contradicted by this “Pay-to-get-Popular” feature. Some even call it narcissistic. The main reason for the same is the fact that not all of the users will be able to shell out money, especially the younger users and students who are not financially well off as brands.

Though Facebook’s official statement regarding the same goes something like this,

We’re constantly testing new features across the site. This particular test is simply to gauge people’s interest in this method of sharing with their friends.

I personally doubt whether it will get any acceptance if at all. But if it does, this will be one of the most unexpected revenue streams for the platform and others too can be expected to follow suit.

Also, sometimes highlighting will help users to a considerable extent. Consider the following scenario, if someone needs blood owing to a medical emergency, a post like, “Urgently need O+ blood contact on 0123456789”  and this post is highlighted, it is bound to create awareness and can help. Similarly,  highlighting a post like, “Leaving Mumbai for 2 years. Do come to say goodbye today!”will give people a much needed boost in visibility.

However, this feature on the whole seems like playing with fire. As such, people with deep pockets will soon be the ones influencing the platform and this can make it another ground for influential neta’s of our country to slug it out.

Also, the feature itself seems to contradict the original Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm. At present it shows user’s posts of their closest friends and also those that have received a high number of likes, comments and shares. The “Highlight” feature will completely distort this. It will also lead to Facebook becoming an open playground for spammers like club promoters, affiliates and all others who have something to gain out of clicks and visibility.

How it works:

Those in the test group will be able to see a “Highlight” button next to their status update. When clicked , this button will open a menu. Depending upon the version of the feature available for your profile, you will either be able to get a free highlight or pay a couple of dollars for the same. The payment for the same can be done through Paypal or through a Credit Card and not through virtual currency credits. (Another glitch here! Had virtual currency credits been allowed, the not so big spender’s too could have made use of the feature once in a while.) Also, Facebook’s Highlight is for end users unlike Twitter’s promoted tweets for businesses and brands.

Concluding:

As of now, users can breathe a sigh of relief as the feature is only in the testing phase and is not expected to be rolled out soon. It is restricted only to New Zealand as of now, the country where most of Facebook’s ideas are tested mainly because it is an isolated one. At least one thing done right by Zuckerberg as such a feature is highly likely to erode the community feeling of people. Peopel are here because they want to know what others think not how deep their wallet is.

Featured Image courtesy Cogdogblog

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