Users will now see unsolicited adverts for a range of products in between regular updates from friends about what they have been doing in their lives
Facebook has admitted that paid adverts are now appearing in users’ news feeds - and looking identical to normal posts.
Users will now see unsolicited adverts for a range of products in between regular updates from friends about what they have been doing in their lives.
Critics claims the controversial move will fool people into clicking on the ‘stories’ as they do not realise what they are.
But the adverts are likely to prove extremely lucrative for Facebook as advertisers will be falling over themselves to buy them up.
In an attempt to ease users’ concerns, Facebook has vowed to only display adverts for goods and services that somebody has already ‘liked’.
The social networking site will also only allow one paid news story a day in news feeds and none in the mobile version.
But the only difference between organic content and the adverts will be the words ‘featured content’ on the bottom right of the post.
Facebook has shied away from using ‘sponsored content’ as it had suggested it would in the past - apparently to make the adverts blend in more easily.
Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner, said that Facebook’s decision would not go down well with its 800 million users.
He said: ‘Sponsored seems a bit more transparent than featured.
‘It is a departure from user expectations and industry convention’.
Facebook ran adverts in the news feed between 2006 and 2009 but stopped them until now, perhaps out of concerns that it would further damage its battered image.
The website has repeatedly criticised over its stance on privacy and last year agreed to a raft of controls imposed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after it found the website had been ‘unfair and deceptive’ to its users for four years.
Writing on TechCrunch, Josh Constine called the adverts a ‘risk’ for Facebook and said it should name then what they really are.
He said: ‘At first Facebook will show a roughly one news feed ad per user per day.
‘But if they’re not clearly marked or Facebook later chooses to show more, they could decrease trust in the news feed or make it less satisfying to browse.
‘Facebook will be keeping a close eye on the rate limit to protect the user experience, but this is not the best start.’
Shortly after Facebook introduced its latest raft of new changes, including the constantly-updated ticker and the Timeline feature, a poll found that 86 per cent of users hated the update.
The equivalent of 688 million people said that the social networking site should go back to the way it was before, Sodahead.com found.
Amongst teenagers the number was even higher and 91 per cent said that Facebook was worse since the update.
Facebook said in a statement it was labelling adverts in the news feed ‘featured’ instead of ‘sponsored’ because ‘we want to make it clear to people that they’re seeing content from a Page or person they have chosen to connect to’.
The spokesman said: ‘We want to make it clear that marketers can only pay for stories to be featured in your News Feed if you have explicitly liked the page.’