It appears that Facebook is rolling out a change requiring all links shared on the social network to include a thumbnail. Presently, the thumbnail is optional.

“Gee, that sure is a swell link you got there about your grandma’s obituary! Use this cool cat pic as the thumbnail. I found it on your website somewhere.”

The change seems to be rolling out gradually and is only effective on a per user basis. I was consistently shown the same version of the post form across several test machines, operating systems and browsers. But, one of my co-workers was somehow switched to use the newer version and this seems to stay the same for him across various platforms.

Screenshot of new Facebook post form.

With the new version, you get whatever Facebook feels like picking out for you.

It was not clear whether the changes are related only to Facebook Pages, or if the change affect all link posting. I tested by trying to post the same URL to a Facebook Page of which we are both administrators.

So, what’s the problem?

Ah, the reason for writing this post! When posting a link using the old version of the post form there is an option of “no thumbnail”. The new form does not include this option.

Old Form - Thumbnail and Options

The old version allowed a choice between several thumbnails or post without a thumbnail. Posting directly on Facebook via the status update box included these option plus the ability to upload a custom thumbnail.

If the link you are sharing contains content with a relevant image, Facebook seems to be smart enough to find it. But, when an image exists on the page, and there is no image directly associated with the post content – think accreditation medals in the site footer or thumbnails of related/recommended posts – then Facebook seems to grab an image at random. If Facebook doesn’t find a suitable image on the linked page, it attaches a grey “no thumbnail” image to your post.

Old Form - No Thumbnail

Here is what would happen on the old form when Facebook couldn’t find an image.

In my opinion, some content simply does not need a thumbnail image. And, with the exception of an exposé on ADHD, no content is helped by an associated image selected at random.

I also noticed that a link shared via a third party plugin, such as AddThis, doesn’t include the option to cycle through thumbnails or upload a custom thumbnail. Fortunately, pasting the link into the status update box on Facebook affords you these two privileges still.

If you know more about this, or have feedback let me know in the comments below!