Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of updates integral to their next-gen Facebook Platform today at their third annual f8 conference held in San Francisco. At the heart of these updates is the technology to allow Facebook data to flow more easily outside the carefully-controlled confines of Facebook itself.
Building on the success and widespread adoption of Facebook Connect, first announced at the inaugural f8 in 2008, a new concept dubbed “Open Graph” will expose your Facebook connections and public data to third-party web sites and mobile apps. In doing so, these outside services can better personalize your experience based on the data it finds. Expect the data to flow in two directions as services like Pandora, Yelp, Foursquare and other connected services feed even more behavioral data into your personal Open Graph.
You can easily imagine a scenario wherein after analyzing your Foursquare check-ins, Yelp decides that you really have a thing for Thai food and helpfully displays all of the Thai Restaurants in your immediate area upon start-up. Or perhaps you’ve favorited so many female singer-songwriter tracks at your favorite music-streaming service, that Yelp notifies you that Sara Barailles is playing at the Hotel Cafe nearby in Los Angeles this evening.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably marveling at the glorious levels of personalization you might experience while simultaneously cringing at the potential privacy issues that Open Graph may unleash on unsuspecting users. But wait, there’s more!
Facebook also announced the availability of a new line-up of easily-implemented social plug-ins. With one line of HTML code, third-party websites can drop powerful social networking tools into their pages. The new “Like” button is an update of sorts for the old “Share” button we’ve become accustomed to as we travel the web. With one click, visitors can hit the “Like” button and your page gets inserted into that user’s newsfeed while also enabling other lightweight plugins to piggyback on that data.
For instance, the “Activity Feed” plugin will show visitors at a glance what content on your site they liked sufficiently to hit the “Like” button. Likewise, the Facepile plugin will show the profile pictures of friends who have already signed up for your site. Developers and publishers will certainly like the ease of implementing these features; after all, it doesn’t get any simpler than inserting a single line of code.
Rounding out the announcements today, is the Open Graph Protocol and Graph API which offer dramatic improvements and simplification of coding a third-party site to connect with Facebook and the wealth of user information available therein. The Open Graph Protocol opens up the social graph and lets your pages become objects that users can add to their profiles, and in turn your site gains the standard benefits of a Facebook page.
When a user clicks a “Like” button on your site, your site now gains a link from the user’s profile, the ability to publish to the user’s News Feed, inclusion in search via Facebook, as well as analytics through the revamped Insights product. The Graph API helps third party sites realize these capabilities in a much easier manner than ever before. Authentication and authorization is now handled via OAuth 2.0 and Facebook has enabled a search feature which lets you search over objects like people and events, and over the stream — both public stream updates and personalized ones for your users.
These are some powerful tools indeed. I fully expect to see a billion “Like” buttons spring up all over the web in the next few days. And you’ll start to notice third-party sites, services and apps allowing log-ins via your Facebook credentials, making it easier to sign-in and start being productive without having to take time to sign up for a new account or to stop and remember your username and password. We’ll see how the personalization vs. privacy issue shakes out in the weeks to come, but more intelligent personalization may be a worthy trade-off for whatever privacy concerns you may have.