The New York Times is revamping the social interaction on its website, with the improvements rolling out to readers in the fall.

Much of the technology will be based on the Times’ TimesPeople social network, which launched in 2008 as part of the TimesOpen initiative to make its content more available to outside developers.

Jeff Sonderman, the Digital Media Fellow at the Poynter Institute, followed up when he learned the publication had quietly removed its TimesPeople toolbar and functions several days ago. He spoke with Marc Frons, the Times’ chief technology officer for digital operations, who shared some of his plans for a more integrated social offering.

The new product is still based on its users sharing content, but it also will factor in the disparate value of users’ contributions and connections so the best will be easier to discover and interact with. Implementing filters for comments, again to highlight the most insightful or interesting, will also be part of the new system.

Besides engaging its readers on a deeper level, social sharing should increase how often people visit the site and how many stories they look at. Since the Times allows each visitor to read 20 articles a month without paying to subscribe, making people want to read more of its articles could boost the subscriber numbers.

The abrupt disappearance of TimesPeople dismayed existing users like Stowe Boyd and others who complained about the lack of notice. Boyd blogged, “Any chance to offload my posts, contacts, and other data? I guess not. I had 1075ish followers and was following a few dozen, now inaccessible.”

Kristin Mason, manager, communication, the New York Times, posted on Boyd’s blog that user profiles can still be found by going to even though the toolbar and other features are gone. “We apologize for any confusion, and we’re working to make sure that this information is available to other users as well,” she wrote.

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