Allow me to plug a good project first, because it illustrates a problem.

Grab Shareaholic. Shareaholic is awesome. You can post links to about bazillion different services with it. I only really need Reddit and Identica, but there’s more services supported.

Installs with a couple of clicks and a restart. Configure with a bit of clicking - choose services, disable the “buzz” and stats bullshit, and you’re done. And there you have it, a small icon in the address bar. There. Was it too hard to get? Was it too hard to install? I don’t think so.

Then why do the web developers keep fixing this bullshit at the wrong end?

I’ve seen this problem in most websites since Microsoft “innovated” by introducing “Make this page your homepage” kind of links. In the dot-com bubble era, people created portal services and specifically wanted people to make the pages their home pages. Of course, because the web devs don’t trust the intelligence of the users, they needed a JavaScript call to, uh, change browser user settings.

In Firefox, you nowadays have a button that says “use current pages” in the home page settings. So, you want to change your home page? Open settings, hit button. Mind you, in the dot-com bubble era, this was considerably more difficult - you had to copy and paste the current URL to the browser settings.

If you are an end user who has absolutely no idea about computers and you just said “damn, even I could do that,” you’re probably not alone.

And you may think that social networking and social media are new inventions. Nope - it is just evolution of the existing tools. The tools were a lot clumsier, the technology was more primitive. For example, video cameras were expensive, encoding video was slow, and transmitting video over dialup had obvious flaws, so no way you could have had YouTube 10 years ago. But even 10 years ago, people had email, IRC and even blogs. People copied and pasted URLs all the time.

And Shareaholic just means that you don’t copy and paste links. You just skip directly to the submission page on your favourite social site. You may need URL shortening, but it’s so well built-in in all of the systems along the way that you barely notice it. It’s all in the client side. And even without tools like Shareaholic, a lot of social sites allow you to use bookmarklets. Easy and effective.

So why are websites now plastering bazillion Facebook “Like” and “Tweet this” and whateverthehell buttons on every single page? Why? It didn’t work in the past 10 years, what makes you think it works in the future?

The most recent example of this is Google’s +1. It’s a bit bland for an April Fools joke, so I assume it’s true. And even if it isn’t, then dammit, I’ll just say the same thing I was going to say even before this announcement: Link sharing is a client-side thing. It’s yet another wrong solution to the same problem. I wish Google has the good sense to confine the button to Google results pages, because there’s no frigging way I’m going to add support for “+1” to my pages, any more than I’d be adding any support for Facebook “Like” or their ilk.

This is the only big problem of social sites: they need - they absolutely need - either client support (Shareaholic, bookmarklets, etc) or direct client actions (i.e., copy-pasting). You have three actors in play: the user, the social site, and the content provider, and using the social site is the user’s responsibility, not the content provider’s responsibility. It’s impossible for all websites to cater every possible user’s own preferences in social websites.

These buttons are not fair to the current situation (no damn website supports Identica, or bury it somewhere in a gigantic link palette anyway), it leads to needless linkrot (yes, there are still sites that let you add the bookmark to ma.gnolia, why do you ask?) and it is not future-proof (chances are, there’s a bunch of awesome social websites just around the corner, and you don’t support them yet!). They’re also usability nightmares: every site implements these buttons their own way, and in order to find the service you use, you need to go searching for it… as opposed to a bookmarklet or Shareaholic, which is just where you left it.

I’m assuming you, dear readers, are not morons. I trust you can make the best possible use of your web browsers. Please do. Because you’re not going to find “Like” buttons here. You’re not going to find “add this to your bookmarks” links. No Google buttons. Just use the same tools you use for your ordinary browsing. Get the bookmarklets for your favourite site, or any extension like Shareaholic. I don’t want to track you, all I care is that Google Analytics says that there’s maybe some actual users here, reading these posts.

I’m sorry, I have a bit of a headache. I don’t want you to have a headache.