Facebook’s f8 Conference kicked off with the introduction of three key themes: putting people at the center of the Web, making everything instantly sociable and simplicity.
Together, these themes form a strategy to put Facebook at the forefront of all Internet activity. Or, as Greg Sterling put it, “Facebook is the sun and other sites are its planets.”
Doing so means redefining how we use the Web. This is where Facebook is truly innovative.
Today’s Web is comprised of a series of disconnected graphs that lack context for most people. For example, Facebook maps relationships among people, Yelp maps commerce for small businesses and Pandora maps music among genres. At this point, there isn’t a sturdy bridge among them.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg suggested that we are defined by our relationships to people, things and information; without connections, nothing on the Web is relevant.
Facebook’s vision is to pull all the graphs together, making them smarter, personal and semantically aware. Facebook calls this the “Open Graph.” The key to unlock it is a person’s relationships. Websites that can tap into relationships on Facebook, whether that includes a network of people or personal information, will be able to provide content tailored to unique interests. Connecting Facebook and Yelp, for instance, will help Yelp return restaurant search results, based on what a user’s friends are recommending or what foods a user prefers.
Consider the alternatives. Facebook news feeds exist in silos. They are fluid and unfocused; therefore, users are only aware of recommendations for restaurants within a few hours after being posted. Otherwise, user-generated content is quickly replaced by updates on someone’s golf game, rants about politics, or recommended news articles. Yelp, on the other hand, returns restaurant results based on the interests of others, without regard to whether a searcher shares the same interests.
The problem with this is that the experience isn’t personable or timely. Open Graph attempts to solve that.
Facebook’s thinking is full circle, as well. As interests change, so, too, will the content. For example, just because users are consuming more of CNN.com’s content about whales doesn’t mean they’ll add marine biology as an interest on their Facebook profiles. However, using Facebook’s “Like” feature will instantly update information on their profiles, as it is consumed. This means businesses can make connections with users’ interests to adjust content and to provide better experiences.
What does this mean for Facebook? While Google and Yelp are building out local databases, Facebook is busy redefining the Web as a socially relevant experience. This makes them the doorway to all content on the Internet. Whether users will risk privacy to participate is another story.