In what could be a major change for online publishers, Twitter is reportedly looking to remove share counts from their 'tweet' and 'follow' buttons as part of a re-design of the well-known web feature.
Tweet buttons old (left) and new (right)
"The Tweet button has displayed share count over the last five years by querying a JSON endpoint hosted on various domains. These private JSON endpoints have been used by third-party developers over the years to retrieve a simple share count of any URL. These endpoints will be shut down next month when the Tweet button removes its share count feature. The Twitter REST API's search endpoints are the best way to gather ad-hoc information about a URL shared on Twitter; full-archive search counts are available from Gnip"
While the new buttons themselves look great, the removal of share counts is a big change - shares counts are displayed by many web publishers (including Social Media Today) and used as an indicator of a post's popularity. While not having those counts won't change the core offering of each page - being the content itself - social proof factors can play a big part in content distribution and any removal of such context will have an effect, to some degree. Think about it, if you see a post has only a few shares, you're probably less likely to share it yourself, right? While most of us would like to think it's not a factor the reality is that such perceptions can influence our behaviors, even subconsciously, and that, in turn, can reduce potential reach.
The good thing is, all publishers will be in the same boat. While you might not be able to show your Twitter share counts anymore, no one else will either (except maybe those that pay for Gnip access), so it's likely to have less of an impact in the longer term.
Then again, there are other tools which can display an indicative share tally, and no doubt more providers will crop up offering such tools using Twitter's free API access. But it is an announcement that will get web publishers thinking about the effectiveness of displaying share counts, and whether highlighting such numbers at all is worth continuing with - many publishers have already switched off share counts.
What about you? Will you be looking to switch off share counts on your site as a result of this change?