facebook adds ask button
May 20, 2014

Facebook Adds “Ask” Feature

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

On Monday Facebook went straight to the point and tweaked its "Relationship Status" with the addition of an "Ask" button feature, which is displayed on a parts of a user's profile when it has not been filled out completely. This button allows users to ask others on Facebook about undisclosed relationship status, work affiliations, hometowns and anything else that might be left blank in their "About" section.

Basically this will show up anywhere users have chosen to withhold information from the Facebook community. Facebook also does provide some snide commentary to those who do the asking. Ars Technica's Sam Machkovech reported, "If I click 'ask' on a friend's 'career' section, I'm shown a prompt that says 'Let so-and-so know why you're asking for his/her work info,' along with an optional text blank."

The friend who receives such a brazen request is then offered the chance to answer the question – with text field for things like schools and career, or a list in the case of relationship status. Moreover Facebook gives the person doing the asking to do so privately so as to avoid total public disclosure.

While it's only in testing for now, online reports have noted that it is widely available, and it has been slowly rolled out since the beginning of the year.

Machkovech added, " A Facebook representative responded to say that this 'ask' feature has been rolled out in waves to users since January, though when asked pointedly whether this was in the form of the obvious 'ask' button that is now live across the site, or previously reported functionality buried in users' profiles, the representative was unable to clarify. Our additional questions about how 'private' response data would be handled, and why Facebook made the change, remained unanswered."

As for the answers, that is far less clear.

Eric Limer of Gizmodo noted, "no one is forcing anyone to share secrets with any random yahoo who asks, but it was a little bit nicer when privacy settings felt like they meant a little more. But in the meantime, time to start pestering all your single friends."

Time's Laura Stampler dubbed this new feature "incredibly annoying for obvious reasons," and added, "People share what they're comfortable sharing. All the button does is enable nagging from people who aren’t close enough with you to know where you went to college, if you’re single, or whether you were spared in the last round of company layoffs."

Caroline Moss of Business Insider called out this feature as well, "It was more charming when you at least pretended you didn't know you were an enabler."

However, "Facebook's primary mission has been to encourage members to share more," said Josh Crandall, principal analyst at Netpop Research. "It's pushed the boundaries on what's appropriate too, Beacon, for example.

"The 'Ask' button is another attempt to kick-start engagement," Crandall told redOrbit. "The designers are thinking about the positive applications around reconnecting with old friends, subtle ways to find out if someone likes you, etc. But, what about the times that somebody who you want to keep at arm's length asks you about something that you don't want to share in real life? Facebook users may evaluate their sharing settings more closely or decide to share less on the service if those who use the Ask button don't respect others' sense of "personal space."