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A relatively large number of publishers, particularly those running 'blogs', rely on third-party services to power the comments on their websites.

From Facebook Comments to Disqus, there is no shortage of options that enable publishers to offer commenting functionality without having to implement it themselves.

While not the most technically complex functionality to implement, there are a number of reasons publishers might choose to outsource comments, ranging from spam control to identity management.

Up until now, however, Google hasn't always indexed all of the comments left by users, as solutions like Facebook Comments, Disqus and Intense Debate rely on JavaScript to function.

That is apparently changing according to Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration. He writes:

Googlebots, or the spiders that crawl web pages,  are now reading Facebook comments on websites just like any other text content and the more interesting part is that you can also search the text of these comments using regular Google search.

Observers will be quick to discuss the potential SEO implications here, and there may indeed be some for certain publishers, but in reality, the biggest implications may be for individual users, particularly those who comment using Facebook Comments.

After all, Google's access to Facebook member information is limited when users apply the appropriate privacy settings to their Facebook Profiles. But comments left via Facebook Comments give Google a back-door opportunity to tear down Facebook's wall.

As launch.is demonstrates, a person's name and their university can be used to surface comments that he or she has left across the web, and in some instances, those comments may appear on the first page of results for that individual.

Obviously, one would expect that users posting comments through their Facebook profiles would understand that those comments could be visible to search engines, but now that Google is actually indexing them, you can be sure more than a few users may be surprised to learn that their online commenting activities are now a part of their Google track record.

How many of them are upset by this only time will tell, but Google's move does serve as a reminder that as Facebook seeks to play a larger role on the web outside of its walled garden, its users will increasingly find that maintaining their privacy requires greater and greater effort.

Patricio Robles

Published 1 November, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2392 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey, Marketing Consultant - Social Media and Media Relations at Human Factors International

I generally don't use Facebook commenting privacy reasons.

Facebook, Google, everyone needs to take note that one of the grievances of Occupy Wallstreet is using people's private information as commodity.

almost 5 years ago

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Jonathan Fagan

The move by Google blurs the distinction between business and private online activity. After all, very often people use Facebook to communicate with private contacts and LinkedIn and email to communicate with business contacts. If business contacts can now see Facebook comments, this almost removes just about every wall around the two distinctions - business life and personal life. Hopefully Google will put a stop to this pretty quickly when the search engine results start to get flooded with a load of useless waffle. Just think what would happen if Twitter results started to appear as well....

almost 5 years ago

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Alex H

I don't think Google is referencing comments that are on the actual social media site, but rather on sites that are accessed by the users Facebook account information. Maybe (hopefully not) this is a misunderstanding - would be great if someone could clarify! Thanks

almost 5 years ago

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Nick Armstead, SEO + PPC Consultant at Orantec

This is bad or good news depending on who you are. As an SEO I refrained from having facebook comments on my sites because they didnt get indexed, it would be a lot less hassle for me now to include them and let fb's spam filters regulate my posts while my site gets the SEO credit for the comment.

I do think what is likely is that facebook will have to give the option of whether your posts are made public or indexable by search engines when you comment on other sites... to be hidden amongst the gazzillion options already available that no one clearly understands.

almost 5 years ago

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