I was talking to a friend yesterday about what we'd be willing to reveal to Google or Yahoo! to get better search results? Zip code? Sure, they can already guess and I'd just as soon they were accurate with local recommendations. Interests? Why not? They already know what I'm searching on--why not give them some help?
Of course, I'd rather not type all that information into every site I visit. That's the logic behind Mark Cuban's recent call for Facebook to open their API:
When you go to my Facebook profile, you get the real me. Thats not to say I answer every profile question. I don't. I'm not going to disclose everything about myself. However, the data that is available about me is the most comprehensive, self maintained database record about me on the internet or probably anywhere. Access to that information times the however many tens of millions of Facebook active users is worth a lot of money.
Of course, Facebook has more than a good record of my personal traits and attributes. They also know about my relationships. Would you be willing to reveal your social network to Yahoo! or Google? For most of us, the answer depends on what we'd get in return. How about friend recommendations on products? I have a friend who spends hours scouring digital camera reviews. If he recommends a Canon G9, then I'm all over it.
Imagine a system that knew what your friends were buying and ordered product search results accordingly. You could tweak it, perhaps, with information about who's recommendation you trusted in what categories.
The internet isn't good at using trust relationships because they've been difficult to determine. Social networks are one of the first applications that give us the promise of better trust relationships online. Exploiting the relationship data in an application like Facebook is the first step.