Facebook looks to expand web presence with 'like' button

Facebook is reportedly close to introducing a 'like' button, which would let users flag third-party content. That would put Facebook head-to-head with popular sites such as Digg.

Details on the newest Facebook functionality are vague. But reports indicate that Facebook could be trying to ape sites such as Digg.

Facebook is close to unveiling a functionality that would let users tag – or "like" – a range of Internet content outside the official Facebook site.

That's the report today from the New York Times, which says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could make an official announcement as soon as Wednesday. If the news is accurate, it would represent a new phase for Facebook, which has sought in recent months to move from social networking site to major Internet hub.

Already, users on the site can "share" content, by cutting and pasting a link or video or photograph onto their profile page. That content is then visible to all the user's friends. What Facebook now has in mind appears to be closer to the Digg model: a user would be able to give a virtual thumbs up to a news item, a music review, or blog – or any other kind of third-party content – without actually logging onto the official Facebook site.

"In other words, your commitment starts and ends with a simple thumbs up," writes Jared Newman of PC World. A "like" button, of course, would be pretty cool for users. It would also be hugely beneficial to Facebook. For one, it would provide Facebook another glimpse of its users' tastes and interests – information which can then be harnessed by the bevy of businesses that advertise on Facebook on a regular basis.

As both the Times and PC World note, Facebook has been aggressively expanding its online presence. Zuckerberg is no longer content with a mere network, like the ailing MySpace – he wants Facebook to front and center on the Web landscape. And there are signs the strategy is succeeding: For one week in March, Facebook soaked up 7.07 percent of all US Internet activity, putting the site temporarily ahead of Google in the US traffic race.

Talk to us. Are you a Facebook user? What would you get out of a "like" button?

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