U.K. newspaper the Guardian announced Thursday that it will shut down its Facebook Social Reader app, bringing an end to one of the most high-profile experiments of Facebook’s often-touted Open Graph.
The Guardian was hoping to ride the coattails of the launch of Open Graph, which leverages Facebook user’s social reading habits. And, according to the publication, it worked. The Guardian Group Product Manager Anthony Sullivan writes that, “Over 12 million Facebook users have authenticated the Guardian Facebook app since launch, and at its peak (April 2012) we were seeing 6 million active monthly users.”
The problem is that the Guardian’s (and other participating publications’) articles were being read on Facebook in their entirety. Users weren’t clicking through to the publication’s website. For the Guardian to make money and attract advertisers, the publication needs its readers to visit its website. While Sullivan admits that Facebook did bring in new readers – “the Facebook app has given us access to a hard to reach audience” – it was also keeping readers from the Guardian’s site.
So starting today, should you read an article from the Guardian using its Social Reader app, that article will no longer be published to your Timeline and won’t appear in your friends’ News Feeds.
Social Reader was intended to disseminate information quickly and frictionlessly, which in some cases was too effective to the point of being deemed “spam.” Spotify ran into this issue last year after launching its own Open Graph app when an inundation of Spotify playlists were being published to user’s News Feeds. That issue has since died down thanks to changes to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm.
Facebook users can now log into the Guardian’s website using Facebook Connect, and choose the articles they’d like to share themselves. And when a reader clicks on any Guardian links shared on Facebook, they’re now sent to guardian.co.uk.
The Guardian’s decision to pull out shows that Facebook has at least a minor a problem; it’s in tight control of content published on the social network to the point of thwarting the monetization of its partners’ content. Will Facebook be compelled to make some changes to its Social Reader? We would guess that more publishing partners are going to have to drop out before Facebook beings to second guess its Social Reader.