It’s been long assumed that Facebook’s “Share” button is going away. Ever since the Like button for websites was announced a little over a year ago, Facebook started to push developers toward using this viral mechanism over Share.

The Like button was a better solution on many fronts. It wasn’t disruptive; a click would change the status to “liked” (like an on/off toggle), allowing the page visitor to go about their content consumption activity as before. (Optionally the visitor could leave a comment visible to anybody who could see the resulting Like story). The Share button, on the other hand, would generate a pop-up whereby the visitor had to think about whom to send it to and what to say. That’s a lot of work.

Furthermore, the Like button created a connection between the visitor and the Liked page, a connection that would be part of the visitor’s Facebook profile/identity, and a connection that could be leveraged in future marketing. The Share button was just a momentary blip on the social radar.

Reintroducing sharing via the Send button

Now with the introduction of the Send button, Facebook is bringing back some of the “inconveniences” of the Share button, but adopting the simplicity of the Like button wherever possible. I like it a lot.

Upon clicking the Send button, visitors will have the option to send the page privately to friends via their Facebook inbox, to the wall of any Facebook group they belong to, or to any valid email address. As with the Like button, the shared page’s Open Graph metadata will furnish the message with a description and image.

You can add the Send button to your web pages as a stand-alone button or combine Send and Like side by side, as seen in this screen shot. However, one big drawback right now is that the combined Send and Like button option is only available to publishers using the XFBML version, which excludes many sites that have opted for the easier-to-implement iFrame version.

It will also be interesting if Facebook will extend the Send functionality to their News Feed, where “Share” is still an option.

Caution

I highly recommend that web site owners experiment extensively with the Send button before implementing it side-wide alongside the Like button. Here’s the potential problem: Given the option, will visitors rather Send than Like a page? If so, the total viral proliferation of the page might be reduced.  Secondly, with respect to non-article pages, for example product pages, earning page Fans is key. If introducing the Send button reduces the number of Likes, then the website is trading in the long-term benefits of having access to a web page’s Fans, which in my opinion, is far more valuable than earning ephemeral shares via the Send button.

What do you think?

Create your own Send button here.