Could the web be better? That’s a question we technology people keep asking.
The answer is invariably yes.
For each tech company “better” means something different.
If you’re Google then knowing where you are (“geolocation”) will allow them to give you better search results – “Pizza” for example brings you your local Pizza shop rather than Domino’s in San Francisco.
If you’re Apple then a better form factor to view web pages might help – so they bring us the Ipad.
And if you’re Facebook then the web might be better if it were more like Facebook… which brings us to “Open Graph“.
Graph is the term Facebook uses to describe our connections with each other – my relationship with you is one link in the “social graph”. But social relationships aren’t the only interesting links – what about between me and the companies I like (“brand graph”) or me and the films I like “movie graph” or even me and news articles “news graph” – in fact you could put just about any object in front of the word graph and it might be worth recording.
Of course this is something companies have been doing for a while – lovefilm tracks what films I like, Digg records the news articles I like. However what is new is Facebook’s centralisation of this information.
Any “open graph” information is centralised in your Facebook account. And this is why the Facebook privacy debate just got hotter – it’s becoming more than just my social life at stake when someone looks at my Facebook account data.
Each time I “like” a movie at IMDB, like a restaurant on Yelp, or even like a news article on the Nudge blog a consequent story appears on my Facebook wall. Toby just liked Iron Man 2 for example.
Friends will see the story in their news feeds and click on the link will be taken to the web page I was just on, whether it be IMDB, LoveFilm or the Iron Man website.
So for each of us, figuring out how to use open graph in our business should be an item at the top of our agenda – what services or products will make good objects on the open graph? What will customers like to like? What does it mean for our objects to be connected to the graph? What messaging do we want to push to people who like our objects?
And what’s the end game for Facebook in all this – why all this bother in mapping the whole graph, not just the social one? I think it’s all about search. Because, as Facebook have discovered, we’re more interested in what our friends think than what an arbitrary authority (eg. Yahoo’s web directory ) or other web pages (Google’s page rank) think would be the right answer.
Now when my friends search for the best film to see on Facebook they’ll discover that I liked Iron Man 2 and that might be all they need to tip them to go and see it.