A tech enthusiast who practically lives on the internet, I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy books, video games, and fanfiction in my free time.
The easiest way of adding social sharing buttons to your website or blog is using a service like AddThis, ShareThis, or AddToAny. These powerful tools track your social shares and clicks, offer customizable buttons, and (in most cases) load asynchronously without slowing your site down. Indeed, I've been a happy user of AddThis for over a year, and I still have their buttons on a few of my blogs. So why would anyone be unhappy with a great service like that?
The Problem With Social Share Services Like AddThis
Take a look at what resources are loaded by the AddThis script - this can be accomplished by certain browser plugins, or simply running your site through WebPageTest.org - and you will get your answer. You will quickly see that in addition to scripts from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and AddThis themselves (all necessary for the buttons to function properly), they also request something from the following domains:
The good news is, despite the number of different domains contacted, this is unlikely to noticeably slow down your website. The bad news is, most of these are marketing companies that specialize in tracking online behavior. Some of this data might be for AddThis internal use only, while some could be used by, or sold to third-party advertising networks. All I know is that the stuff listed above is not necessary for the normal function of the share buttons.
Alternative #1: Socialite by tmort
Socialite might take some effort to set up, but it's well worth it if you want to cut out the middleman (AddThis) and load social sharing buttons yourself. You will still need scripts from Facebook Twitter, Google+, or whichever social network you decide to use, but you will avoid other third-party scripts and tracking beacons. Plus, socialite.js will be loaded from your own domain, so you will also reduce the number of DNS lookups, thus making your website a tiny bit faster.
Advantages: asynchronous loading. Creates classic Facebook Like, Twitter Share, Google+, etc. buttons without any third-party junk.
Disadvantages: you still need to load scripts from social networks themselves. Takes some time to modify for your needs.
Alternative #2: Basic Sharing via URL
Webmasters concerned about privacy or page load speed might want to drop "heavyweight" dynamic social sharing buttons altogether and implement sharing via URL instead. This much-overlooked method is as basic as it gets. You simply create links to share on Facebook, Twitter, etc. as follows:
Links and titles can be plugged in easily in WordPress. Here's an example for Facebook:
Use basic text links, design your own buttons, or download one of the many free sets offered on the web. Even better, grab the beautiful Ridiculously Responsive Social Sharing Buttons which are SVG-based and change size depending on the visitor's screen resolution.
Disadvantages: no share counters, unless you implement internal tracking of some sort. Extra nofollow links on every page, which might be bad for your Google ranking.
Addendum: the Simple Share Buttons appear to use the same "share via URL" method, but they have figured out how to create share counters as well. In addition, they offer a WordPress plugin, which makes adding buttons very easy. Definitely something to consider if you want something that can be set up quickly. And, unlike AddThis, there's no third-party tracking. Excellent.
Alternative #3: Share42
We Must Choose Between What Is Easy and What Loads Fast
Services like AddThis or ShareThis make it easy to add social sharing buttons to your website and offer useful features like visitor and share analytics. However, if you are concerned about privacy and the load speed of your website, look for a "lighter", more basic alternative.