The importance of Facebook’s Open Graph announcement cannot be overstated.
By providing a ‘Like’ button that developers can add to any website, for any content or subject, Facebook is becoming the central hub for its users tastes and preferences.
Imagine the potential. Amazon can recommend films for you to buy based on what you’ve been looking up on IMDB, Pandora in turn can play music you’ll like based on your friends’ Amazon purchases. Suddenly the web is connected in a far more cohesive way than has ever been possible before. Some of it will be used to promote products to you but there will be a lot of scope for developers to create amazing, new, social services that feed deep into your social graph.
There’s one catch: to take advantage of all this you’ve got to be a Facebook user. It’s understandable that some users will complain about Open Graph. They only signed up for Facebook to find out what their old friends from school were doing and to poke that girl they fancy. They didn’t sign up for a service that would essentially become their passport to a whole new social layer of the web.
The fact is, though, that this is the way it’s going and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can opt out, sure, but Open Graph is so compellingly powerful that you’d be crazy to ignore it.
This is the social power of the web in action and it truly is a win-win-win situation.
- Developers win – they love it as it gives them the opportunity to tap into a whole world of user-relevant information in a way that has never been possible before.
- Facebook wins – it needs Open Graph to continue to grow and once it throws advertising into the mix (somewhere down the line it’s likely) it will be in a position to potentially usurp Google as king of the Internet hill.
- Users win as they get a whole new level of social relevance to their web experience.
There’s only one fly in the ointment: Facebook itself. That name “Open Graph” is a bit of a misnomer. With Facebook at its heart it’s not truly open and that could be its downfall. Open Graph is Facebook’s baby and Mark Zuckerberg and friends are ultimately in control of how it is used.
A truly open framework for being social on the web would ultimately be a preferable situation. It wouldn’t rely on one, commercially led, company. That said, the success of Twitter shows that users don’t care too much about truly open standards as long as they like the product and it’s just open enough to encourage an ecosystem that developers can use to create useful products with.
It’s likely that we’ll see a revisions to the way Open Graph works as a platform, but for now it’s a great first draft.
A new age is dawning, welcome to Web 3.0.