Facebook Tinkers With Comments To Get Users To Talk To Each Other

Despite all the refinements Facebook has forced on its change-phobic user base over the years, the social network's commenting system hasn't gotten a lot of updates. That's finally changing as the company tests rated comments - promoted with Likes - and nested replies with a small test batch of users. (Facebook is also toying with a new notification "ding" to boost engagement - we can almost hear the backlash now). 

Commenting Is A Shouting Match

The tweaks, engineered to boost enagagement, should be a boon for Facebook's one billion plus users as well as the brands that try to reach them.

For brands in particular, Facebook comments are a total mess. Say you've got a few thousand followers. You post something that riles them up and you've got a deluge of comments rolling in. Suddenly it's a conversation, right? Not exactly. There may be 200 comments on your latest post, but each one is the equivalent of a someone walking up and stapling their thoughts onto a telephone pole.

Tenacious engagers might cruise back around or even wade into the comment pool and tag users by name to reply, but it's mostly just a tangle of people shouting over each other in chronological order. Popular comments might attract a lot of likes, but they don't move up or down the totem pole or get called out in any way. 

Likes Get A Bigger Role

As the screenshot shows, the new commenting system adds a one-layer-deep level of replies. Users can respond to a comment on the original post, but (thankfully) won't be able to reply to a reply. This basic improvement should help clear up the confusion about who is talking to whom in an ongoing Facebook comment thread. Better yet, comments that garner a bunch of likes will rise to the top, highlighting more interesting or on-point comments.

Of course, many sites already provide some kind of yea-or-nay feedback system that encourages quality content to rise to the top, user-generated or otherwise. Google introduced the +1 to its social search results. The painstakingly tuned commenting systems on sites like Gawker mercifully let readers downvote stupid comments into oblivion. Buzzfeed's social curation offers a veritable viral buffet, with buttons encouraging users to LOL or OMG (WTF).

Facebook's Like button has been many things to many users since the company first introduced it in 2009. Now, Likes look poised to evolve into a less dynamic version of Reddit's upvotes, the social ranking machine that makes the latter site go 'round - and keeps its users coming back for more. Facebook is no doubt hoping its new system will do the same.