At the f8 conference in San Francisco Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivered a keynote speech that focused on developments that are being rolled out to bring social interactions to the greater Web. Add it up and Facebook is going to garner more control of the Web and put itself in the middle of content.
For a better understanding of what this is meant to do, consider the information that's floating around the Facebook cloud. Sure, I can tell my friends that I like a band or plan on attending a particular event. I can share a news article I liked or even post a quick review of a restaurant where I had lunch.
But this information is on Facebook for a short time, part of a stream that's constantly changing as friends post updates. It's just a snapshot in time. Maybe my friends will see the links I post. Maybe they won't. Because events are streamed, the chances that someone might miss a review I posted to Yelp are pretty high. Sure, my review is posted on Yelp's site and that information is in Yelp's "Facebook graph" but those worlds aren't necessarily connected.
Zuckerberg in his keynote and on his blog summed it up:
We are making it so all websites can work together to build a more comprehensive map of connections and create better, more social experiences for everyone. We have redesigned Facebook Platform to offer a simple set of tools that sites around the web can use to personalize experiences and build out the graph of connections people are making.
In other words, Facebook's move today is a big deal even though users won't see much. This IMDB screen shows Facebook's little widget (right). You like a movie big deal right? Behind the scenes, Facebook is categorizing content. The behavioral ad implications are large. Facebook will have insight on the entire Web---after all why wouldn't a Web publisher participate---and reap most of the benefits. People (and Facebook) will be center of the Web. If search signals intent, Facebook's Like button signals a strong preference. Ultimately, preference may be more valuable. In addition, clicking Like on a Facebook widget now begins a relationship since sites that participate can update people about changes or new information.
Today's conference, which is targeted at developers, is focused around tools that developers can use to bring a social - well, Facebook - element to their sites and allow users to share information and discover information about their friends as it relates to that site. What does that mean? The CNN example drove it home best.
Let's say you go to a particular article at CNN.com. You haven't signed in to CNN or otherwise told them who you are. But, there on the CNN page, is information about your Facebook friends who have already "liked" that article. That's something you likely would have missed on their Facebook News Feed streams - but, now that information is not only in front of you - but also relevant to your user experience.
It's this "Open Graph" idea that's central to Facebook's new platform architecture, which is being rolled out later today. What's cool about it is that it allows developers to create "bigger picture" experiences and turn every element into something social and personalized.
My favorite example that really drives home the power of this new graph approach was the Pandora example. Let's say I've clicked Facebook "Like" buttons embedded into sites across the Web where I've been able to share with friends the bands that I like. When I launch Pandora, it knows the bands that I've told my Facebook friends that I like - and it starts playing music from them.
Facebook, with its news today, is reinventing and redefining what the social web actually means. There's a lot to take in and the magnitude of it all is just starting to sink in. It'll take some time to truly understand the potential - and value - of what Facebook is unveling today.
And, above all, remember that Facebook only knows about you what you're sharing with it. It's noteworthy because, using the CNN example above, it doesn't necessarily mean you're telling CNN anything about you - directly. But, through the connected graphs. CNN will surely know you're there and will know that you liked its story.
What it does with that information is a different story.