Facebook to sunset Sponsored Stories by April

The controversial type of ad unit, which was the focus of a class action lawsuit, will soon be no more.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read
Facebook announced in a blog post to developers on Thursday that it plans to put an end to Sponsored Stories, a type of ad unit that had been troublesome for the social network.

"Existing domain and open graph sponsored stories will cease to have delivery after April 9," the announcement said.

Sponsored Stories appear on a user's news feed when a friend engages with a certain brand that pays for the exposure. For example, clicking "Like" on a retailer's page might make one of its ads appear in a friend's stream.

The practice has caused the company problems since Sponsored Stories launched in early 2011. Facebook was on the receiving end of a class action suit filed in 2011, alleging that the company didn't get proper consent from consumers to use their names and profile pictures. Facebook ended up settling to the tune of $20 million.

The writing was already on the wall for Sponsored Stories last June, when Facebook announced that it was streamlining its advertising offerings. In a statement sent to CNET, the company said the changes to its ad platform made Sponsored Stories redundant:

As announced in June of last year, we're bringing the best of Sponsored Stories -- social context -- to all ads. Since this update makes Sponsored Stories redundant, we will no longer offer them as a stand-alone ad unit for marketers. Social context will continue to appear with all ads where eligible. Our social advertising honors the audience that people choose, so nobody will see information in social context for an ad that they couldn't already see.
Interestingly, the very program Facebook is shutting down is similar to the one Google+ is just beginning to ramp up. In October, Google's fledgling social network announced changes to its terms of service that explained how a user's name and profile picture might appear in "Google products," including display ads.