Open Graph: Facebook's Play to Dominate the "Social Web"

Last Updated Apr 21, 2010 5:45 PM EDT

Bonus Update: An analysis of how Facebook's social web will challenge Google search Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced this afternoon that his company will begin to share personal information with dozens of outside firms including CNN, Amazon (AMZN), and Microsoft (MSFT). While privacy concerns will certainly emerge, the new strategy cleverly positions Facebook to become the default social engine of the Web.

The company began this process two years ago when it introduced Facebook Connect. That allowed users to log on to outside websites through their Facebook account. The outside firms got a peek at some of your basic information and Facebook got a peek at their users' web activity.

Today Zuckerberg announced a more robust approach call Open Graph. It begins innocently enough, with a "Like" button installed on the websites of outside partners like CNN, Yelp and Fandango. Clicking on this button will transmit your preference back to Facebook, where it will be shared in your newsfeed. So far, nothing particularly game changing.

But Open Graph will allow these data streams to truly flow both ways. As you log in to Yelp, Pandora or IMDB through Facebook, the social network will learn what kind of restaurants, music and films you like. And as Facebook learns these things, so do its business partners. These connected firms will use this data to tailor their sites, providing you with a customized Web experience.

In short, Facebook is looking to colonize the web, extending your profile far and wide, and capturing as much information about your activity as you care to provide. The picture of you that emerges will be used by Facebook and its private partners -- the better to sell you things, of course.

Zuckerberg called this the "most transformative thing we have ever done for the Web." There's no telling if the project will catch on, or what blowback Facebook will face over privacy. But considering the heavyweight partners the site already has lined up -- and the fact that it is the world's largest, fastest growing social network -- there is a lot of momentum for Facebook's new approach to truly change the way the Web works.

Here is Zuckerberg's official post introducing and explaining Open Graph. Image from Flickr User Max-B

  • Ben Popper

    Ben Popper writes at the intersection of culture and technology. His work has been published in the NY Times, Washington Post, Fast Company, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic and many others. He lives at www.benpopper.com.