Has Facebook opened the internet floodgates?

April 29, 2010

You really can't accuse Facebook of sitting on the sidelines, especially in recent days.

Last week at f8 – The Facebook Developer's conference the company introduced their Open Graph Protocol with Graph API, five new social plugins and announced a "personalized experience" pilot program starting with a very select group of corporate partners. After my fears of a web-experience over-run with 'Like' buttons subsided and the public's loud cries over privacy died down, I became encouraged by the possibilities these changes offer.  With that said I won't be declaring Facebook as 'The New Internet' anytime soon.

"To date, the web has really been defined by hyperlinks connecting static pieces of content. We think over the next few years that the connections between people and the things they care about will play as big of a part as hyperlinks do today in defining people's internet experiences.

-Bret Taylor, head of Facebook Platform products and former FriendFeed CEO and co-founder.

Taylor made this remark during the f8 Keynote as he discussed the idea of the Open Graph Protocol—an extension of existing technologies to help create representations of real-world things using metadata. This is an extremely powerful concept and protocol and I'm starting to envision the possibilities.

The platform is set up to to take pages around the web with specific metadata – becoming new objects in this Open Graph – and create connections of information for Facebook users. Using 'Like' buttons on offsite pages, they can map the metadata to pages on Facebook. Liking a band or a movie could mean uses are now provided information from the web to a user, but there are huge flaws in this system. Content producers are asked to keep these best practices in mind with integrating:

  • Make it easy for users to Like things on your site.
  • Make only real-life things into objects. Users don't want news articles and other transient content as objects on their profile.
  • When publishing, use only the 'voice' of the object. For example, if users are liking an actor in a TV show, that actor should publish stories about themselves, not general information on the show, or the TV network.

Based on the amount of spam and clutter in your average web experience I'm not sure users will great information over time because people will end up abusing the system. Unless there is a system of moderating,  information will pass through the system that doesn't follow the published Best Principals. 

The true potential of the platform rests with Facebook's pilot program with companies like Yelp. Having content instantly personalized for a potential customer product viewing a product or service for the first time will improve conversion rates while decrease user friction. That's a win-win in my book. Of course this brings up security concerns, so much so that US Senators are requesting social sites change their privacy policies – specifically with reguards to Facebook's opt-out policy for this pilot program.

I originally opted-out of this Instant Personalization Pilot Program because I had a gut reaction like a lot of people. After enough research I decided to allow my information to be usedspecifically with Yelp because its a service I'm interested in but have not used it to this point. Hopefully I can follow up with my impressions of the experience. I'm optimistic about it too, because I can see the potential this could lend to a service such as Netflix that already has a good recommendation system that requires a lot of user input to prove useful. 

I may have found a reason to use Facebook on an everyday basis. Now let's see if I do.


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