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In trying to test an implementation of top page sharing widgets for individual posts, I'm able to see TechCrunch implement something similar, but with a 2-stage process, where user must hover over the social icons to the left of the post summary.

I'm assuming this is due to optimizing page load speed by not having to wait for or see slow rendering of the external services' widgets.

Could this also be related to the privacy/analytics concerns of showing the widgets by default, as mentioned here:

Why did they use two-stage social media sharing buttons?

From a UX perspective, it seems to be unfamiliar to web users to have to hover before being able to share.

Is it more important to give a familiar experience and find other solutions to the page loading via asynchronous, non-blocking techniques?

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Purely considering the experience, ensuring the method for sharing content is readily apparent and accessible is most important. As the majority of people are going to have been pre-exposed to standard social sharing buttons with counters as provided by websites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+, and having those buttons visible without additional interaction is helpful for having a consistent experience, and aides in scanning. For developers, however, hiding sharing buttons until it is clear they are needed does simplify performant integration.

I would argue that sharing buttons with counters have two distinct purposes on articles — the first is to express the popularity and credibility of an article to the reader, and the second is to allow for actual sharing. There are methods for retrieving these share counts and displaying them in the initial HTML loadout without additional requests needed, and I would argue that doing so would be beneficial. I'm not wont to sharing an article I've yet to read, so placing the relevant sharing actions at the end of an article is more appropriate, provided this behavior is typical too of your average reader. Combined with delaying loading until the viewport approaches the end of the article, this meets both the technical and experiential concerns.

As a side note, hovering before allowing an action makes it more difficult (and in many cases, impossible) to perform the action on a touch-based device.

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