Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Facebook To Drop 'Is' From Status Updates

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." Bill Clinton can rest easy knowing that he will soon have more verb options when updating his status on Facebook. Facebook announced to developers last night that it will soon be dropping the word "is" from status message updates.

The developer platform has already been updated so that external applications that update user status can avoid prepending the word "is." For now, status updates on Facebook still include the "is," but Facebook platform engineers promise that the change will be pushed to Facebook at large soon and make the lack of verb a default behavior rather than something you have to specify. "In a few, we will delete that parameter and change the default behavior to be that you must include your own verb," they wrote.

Though the update is aimed specifically at developers, and it is still rather hazy whether this change will only apply to external applications that update status via the API or to Facebook as a whole, it seems likely that the latter is true.

Status is a fairly important part of any social application, and I have noticed more and more of my friends utilizing Facebook's status feature on a regular basis recently (though, that could be because I have started using it more often in the past few weeks and thus have been paying more attention to it). It is, however, clear that a large number of people were annoyed by the lack of verb choice when updating status.

A group to petition Facebook to drop the "is" gained over 163,000 members -- much more than the majority of Facebook groups -- and today is proclaiming victory based on the platform update. It was one of many groups crusading against the verb. Though it would be silly to say that 163,000 members speak for the rest of Facebook's 50 million or so members, it is hard to believe anyone would object to this change. I often see my friends already ignoring the is in status updates and ending up with clunky, incorrect sentences like, "Jim is just left the symposium early." I can't count how many times I've made the mistake of including the "is" when typing my status out and ending up with "Josh is is" -- it's just natural to want to use your own verbs. My guess is that Facebook initially included the "is" to help people understand what status was and how it was intended to be used, but now that people know what it is, dropping the verb is a great idea.

No comments: