More precisely, I'm sick of being told to "share" every damned piece of "content" I run across on the Web.

It seems to me that "share" has been abused into such a generic term, that I have no idea what's going to happen when I click on of those "share" links. The things I've seen to date are:

  • pop-up that pisses me off
  • a login page appears (WTF?!)
  • new page loads (in a tab), resizes firefox, and pisses me off (*cough* YouTube *cough*)
  • an in-line form appears
  • my email client pops up
  • I'm taken to a page that with a To:, Subject:, and Body fields along with instructions for posting on my blog
  • I'm taken to a page that explains how to embed a Flash widget on MySpace

I'm sure there are other "sharing" behaviors I've yet to encounter. Some probably involve various IM clients. And SMS. And carrier pigeons.

Why is it that almost nobody can think of a way to represent "email this to a friend" without using the word "share"? I seem to run into "share" links all over the freaking place. Sometimes the single word "share" is the link. Thatís' really descriptive, guys. Good design.

And they seem to be placed on the sites under the assumption that I'm too stupid to send email (to the people I presumably email frequently already) with a URL in it (see above list). Thanks for the confidence boost.

WTF?

I guess an honest link title would be too verbose, huh?

If you're like most of our users and can't figure out how to email the URL of this page to your similarly clueless friends, fear not! Click here. We really want to make it easy for your friends to come to our site and click on ads.

Can we please come up with a better euphemism? All this spamming (err, I mean "sharing") is getting on my nerves. Thankfully, few of my friends have taken to this "sharing" craze with any real fervor. I guess that's one way to tell your real friends from those who just want to be friends in a "Web 2.0 social networking" sort of way, huh? :-)

For my taste, I prefer the far more direct "Email Story" link that's on the bottom of most Yahoo! News story pages. At least the intent is clear before I click.

Email isn't exactly new technology. So part of me wonders why nobody's trying to teach people to fish rather than giving them fish. Is the whole "copy URL, paste URL, send message" exercise really that hard?

Oh, right. There's no profit in that!

By having a separate page that I can use to spam my friends, sites get to increase their available advertising "inventory" by a small but maybe measurable percentage.

Yay!

[Before you accuse me of over-estimating how "easy" it is to copy and paste, consider this: None of those email forms have any knowledge of my address book anyway. So I've gotta either remember and correctly type a bunch of my friends' email addresses in order to use them--or I have to, you guessed it, copy and paste them from my address book. Back to square one, huh?]

Posted by jzawodn at October 23, 2006 07:48 AM

Reader Comments
# R Walker said:

"If you're like most of our users and can't figure out how to email the URL of this page to your similarly clueless friends, fear not! Click here. We really want to make it easy for your friends to come to our site and click on ads."

I think you should make this a link or it might confuse the stoopid !

on October 23, 2006 08:07 AM
# Basil Gohar said:

Jeremy, don't forget, that if YOU share a resource with your friends through whatever scheme they can record, then the site can additionally store that information as well (hmmm....x knows y...and they both like brand Z shoes...). As you've already hinted, this is part-and-parcel of the Web 2.0 world.

It's also for this reason that I never accepted nor asked for any Gmail invites - it's easy enough for Google to figure out who my friends are from the web, I'm not going to help them through e-mail as well! Okay, maybe I'm a bit paranoid, but the way things are going, I'll be able to make an IPO on my privacy for at least $10,000, so I have to hold on to it or it'll be prematurely devalued...

on October 23, 2006 10:34 AM
# SEOcritique.com said:

"Share and Enjoy" is, of course, the company motto of the hugely successful Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints division (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) which explains alot.

For more annoyance visit:
www.zootle.net/afda/share-and-enjoy.shtml

on October 23, 2006 10:34 AM
# Eric said:

I agree. Further, the whole "share" paradigm gets on my nerves - more often than not, my reaction is simply "Why the heck would I want to share this?".

It's not that hard to send a link. If I want to "share" it, I'll use the URL in my address bar. It's not a functionality that needs to be part of every page of every site on the internet.

on October 23, 2006 10:48 AM
# crazyj said:

The reason I sometimes use those "Email to a friend" links is because many times I have copied/pasted/emailed a URL to a friend only to get back an email saying the page didn't work. After some digging it always turns out to be because the URL got line-wrapped and the client program only hyperlinked the first line of the URL. I will say that lately I have been skipping the "Share Button" in favor of copy/pasting TinyURL links. The downside to TinyURL links is that the receiver can't look at the URL's domain name and get a sense of what/where they are clicking on before they click it.

on October 23, 2006 10:49 AM
# Sean O'Donnell said:

I'm still trying to figure out a way to teach my 93yo grandfather how to 'attach' and send files via email.

Showing him (physically) how to copy and paste wasn't as hard as trying to explain to him what the 'clipboard' is.

You must be smarter than the cursor, people! =p

on October 23, 2006 11:18 AM
# Hanan Cohen said:

There is another way I thought of that doesn't involve copy & paste but it's a two phase process.

1. Use the form to send the link+description to yourself.

2. From your inbox, forward the link+description to everybody on your addres book.

Do you think it can catch?

on October 23, 2006 11:23 AM
# Tins said:

Solution (if you realy care that much):

Stop visiting those english sites. Come visit some european sites. They won't that word that much.

on October 23, 2006 12:44 PM
# Heh said:

Heh. Yahoo video has "Share this video with a Friend."

Heh. Heh.

Heh.

on October 23, 2006 01:20 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Can you share something that wasn't "yours" in the first place?

I'm trying to imagine the scene from 2nd grade: "Jeremy, you need to share Chad's cookies with Kristin."

Chad says: "Hey, those are *my* cookies!"

on October 23, 2006 01:35 PM
# Philip said:

I know Chad, but who's Kristin?

Anyway, I think del.icio.us's for:foo tags are a good way to umm, share with foo.

on October 23, 2006 01:52 PM
# marc said:

btw, a great design element of delicious is that you needn't "copy and paste" when you tag a site... just highlight text from the page, tag it and it does the "copy and paste" for you.

on October 23, 2006 02:44 PM
# Luka Kladaric said:

firefox -> tools -> options -> content -> javascript advanced ... -> move or resize existing windows -> off

on October 23, 2006 03:29 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Luka:

Thanks. I figured something like that had to exist, but never worked up the movtivation to go looking. In retrospect, that's a little hard to believe.

on October 23, 2006 03:40 PM
# Heh said:

> "Can you share something that wasn't "yours" in the first place?
>
> I'm trying to imagine the scene from 2nd grade: "Jeremy, you need to share Chad's cookies with Kristin."
>
> Chad says: "Hey, those are *my* cookies!"

Heh. Comparing sharing physical objects vs. sharing information is apples and oranges. Heh.

Heh.

on October 23, 2006 04:20 PM
# Nathan Arnold said:

You don't have to use every feature a Web site offers just because it's there.

And yes, "Email this to a friend" is more verbose than "share" and frankly isn't going to work all the time with all designs. "Share" is a nice tidy little verb.

So short, in fact, that it should be exceptionally easy to ignore it.


on October 23, 2006 06:16 PM
# Mike B said:

Hey there is nothing like a good rant!

But aren't we just talking about euphemisms..... a short, simple word to take the place of a few. Not always quite fully descriptive.

But I must say - look at the end of each blog - it says " Spread the word". Isn't this pretty much the same?

Clicking on your links for digg. technorati does the following:
- a login page appears (WTF?!) [Digg]
- a login page appears (WTF?!) [del.icio.us]
- an unhelpful page with a login [reddit]
- a cryptic page appears (technorati)

[Yes I am jerking your chain.... ]

on October 23, 2006 08:55 PM
# Glen Campbell said:

Just FYI - if you use the "Email to friend" link on Yahoo! News, it does, in fact, know about your (Yahoo!) address book, and will auto-complete as you type. Not a complete solution for everyone, and I understand that, but it's great if you use Y! Address Book.

on October 24, 2006 06:56 AM
# Eric Ward said:

Amen Jeremy! You are now officially my hero. The primary consequence of all the new social "sharing" tools is they end up abused by spammers trying to "link flood" their own sites. Whatcha wanna bet that at more than one Fortune 500 company a memo has circulated from the marketing dept requesting that all employees immediately "digg" the company's latest press release or some other similar foolishness. Social sharing has a place and a role, but 99 out of 100 implementations I see are just silly...

on October 24, 2006 10:16 AM
# Joe Duck said:

Hey Jeremy -

Thanks .... for sharing :)

on October 24, 2006 10:22 PM
# Nathan Arnold said:

Hey Jeremy, Check out the "share" button on this new Y! product, launched just YESTERDAY:

http://new.bookmarks.yahoo.com

on October 25, 2006 10:38 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Nathan:

I searched the page and couldn't find a "share" button on it.

That's a good thing, I guess. :-)

on October 25, 2006 10:43 AM
# Nathan Arnold said:

Oh yeah, whoops, it's "send", I guess that's better somehow.

on October 26, 2006 08:32 AM
# Oxycontin Detox said:

The word "share" has an altruist connotation. It is not the same with saying "send this for us"...it is more like "let others benefit from what you've learnt"

on November 4, 2006 10:28 AM
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