Sharing Buttons Begone

You may have noticed that there are no longer any social network sharing buttons on this weblog, nor on the main Kynosarges website. Thus ends a long experiment.

On WordPress, sharing buttons are a standard feature and enabled by default. But I had also added passive Twitter links to the footer of each Kynosarges page back in February 2012, followed in March by active sharing buttons for major services (Twitter, Facebook, Google+). That required some JavaScript code which loaded the actual button code from each network’s remote server. There was no impact on visitors – loading was asynchronous, and the buttons were placed so that their delayed loading couldn’t mess up the page layout.

Then I waited to see if anyone would use those shiny new buttons… and nothing happened. Visitor counts are modest but growing nicely, and some blog posts did get a bunch of social network shares. Yet almost nobody ever used those buttons! On the weblog, virtually all Twitter shares came from retweets, not from the shared posts themselves. And on the website, the vast majority of visits with recorded referrers came from search engines, Stack Overflow, or other personal websites.

I’m sure my strange articles aren’t terribly attractive for sharing on social networks. For example, I freely admit to a distinct lack of funny cat pictures. But as it happens, just this October the phenomenon called “Dark Social” was spotted even on very popular and Facebook-friendly mainstream websites:

On the one hand, you have all the social networks that you know. They’re about 43.5 percent of our social traffic. On the other, you have this previously unmeasured darknet that’s delivering 56.5 percent of people to individual stories. This is not a niche phenomenon! It’s more than 2.5x Facebook’s impact on [The Atlantic].

Surprisingly, most people keep sharing links through e-mail and other untracked means, even though almost every Internet user is on one or more social networks. I’m quite happy to hear this since I’m not fond of social networks partitioning the web into mutually isolated walled gardens. I don’t mind offering sharing buttons if visitors want them, but it’s a relief that many still prefer non-proprietary and non-exclusive means.

For you, the benefit is some saved space on this weblog, and a guaranteed total lack of tracking cookies and JavaScript on the website. Each page is also nearly 1 KB smaller, just in case you’re using a dial-up connection from your Commodore 64.

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