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Facebook debuts 'fan box' tool

Aimed at brands, celebrities, nonprofits, and marketers, the new widget lets site visitors add themselves as Facebook "fans."

The fan box for Coca-Cola. Facebook

Here's something new from Facebook: the "fan box," which is a new tool for celebrities, brands, products, companies, and other entities with Facebook "fan pages" to effectively embed their Facebook presence into their Web sites.

That means that if you go to the Web site of a participating brand, like Coca-Cola or Lance Armstrong's Livestrong nonprofit, you'll see a widget that lets you add that brand as a "fan" on Facebook, which subscribes you to its updates, as well as a feed of updates and an array of profile photos from members who have already proclaimed themselves to be fans.

Facebook is hoping that people will find the "fan box" to be extremely easy to install, so that it's a no-brainer for companies and sites that might not be quite up to speed on technical expertise.

This is a big deal as Facebook continues to expand its presence beyond its famed blue-and-white walls, and keeps pushing the message that its 200 million-plus user base is an invaluable resource for marketers--especially interesting since brand promotion is something that MySpace once had a lock on in the social-networking world. The Facebook Connect log-in product is now installed on over 10,000 sites, and one start-up executive told me Tuesday that it's boosted their user registration numbers so much that he's astonished the company doesn't charge for it.

And last month, Facebook launched a tool called the "live stream box," which embeds a stream of the social network's Twitter-like "status updates" pertaining to a given event, much like the one that CNN and MTV used for this week's memorial for the late pop legend Michael Jackson.