Watch out, Reddit.
This week, Facebook rolled out a new threaded comment feature, allowing users respond to specific comment in a conversation thread, rather than replying broadly to the whole chain. It's a functionality the company's been testing for a while and a natural extension of any comment system, but in this case, Facebook appears to be on a mission.
Armed now with the ability to carry on cleaner, more direct conversations, Facebook appears to be experimenting with its own Q&A style service — much like Reddit's popular "Ask Me Anything" section, which has becoming as ubiquitous on press tours as a stop on Letterman's couch. And the site is courting some notable names to help (threaded comments have automatically been turned on for profiles the feature will be automatically turned on for profiles with more than 10,000 followers). It's a definite departure for Facebook which — unlike Twitter and Reddit — has prioritized partnerships with brands over celebrities.
Yesterday Facebook put the threaded comments to use, as ABC News' Diane Sawyer invited questions from users. As you can see, it looks a lot like your standard AMA, minus the up and downvoting.
Arianna Huffington did one as well...
Facebook has not yet responded for comment, but the company appears to be actively supporting these celebrity Q&As. Facebook's journalism program manager, Vadim Lavrusik, participated in the Sawyer thread, eliciting a response from Sawyer. In the threads, there is additional evidence to suggest that Facebook is experimenting with Reddit-style algorithms to surface the best and most relevant questions. In a recent post on the new feature, Lavrusik noted, "conversation threads are re-ordered by relevance to viewers, and may appear differently to each person based on their connections." This re-ordering system includes Likes as well as reports of spam, which feel very similar to up and downvotes.
While Facebook's effort is in its infancy, there's no doubt that perfecting the celebrity Q&A format would be a major boon for the company. Facebook's mainstream reputation is likely to be more palatable to organizations and individuals looking to hawk a product or personality; while Reddit has amassed a large audience, the site is rough around the edges. And the prospect of potentially reaching over one billion eyes will no doubt be dizzying to PR reps everywhere.
The feature will go live on all Facebook pages on July 10th, but it's almost certain you'll be seeing this type of format appearing more frequently in your feed before then.
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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