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Facebook isn't just a social network. By almost every reasonable standard, it is officially the winner of the social networking wars. While other popular social networks, including MySpace, may not disappear into the void completely, Facebook has left them in the dust.

But the war to become the world's dominant online social network is just one battle in a larger war that seeks to shape the future of the web. And Facebook is gearing up for battle.

At this year's Facebook F8 developer conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a key announcement that has the blogosphere buzzing: the Open Graph. Zuckerberg explained on the Facebook Blog:

...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.

This next version of Facebook Platform puts people at the center of the web. It lets you shape your experiences online and make them more social. For example, if you like a band on Pandora, that information can become part of the graph so that later if you visit a concert site, the site can tell you when the band you like is coming to your area. The power of the open graph is that it helps to create a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken.

Essentially, the goal of the Open Graph is to realize the vision of a semantic web. And Facebook, not surprisingly, wants to be at the center of it.

The Open Graph consists of three products:

  • Social plugins. These plugins given publishers the ability to make content more 'social', and hopefully more relevant to users. The most talked-about social plugin is a new "Like" button that allows publishers to give their users the ability to share particular pieces of content on Facebook in new and more social ways. Facebook expects a billion 'likes' in the first 24 hours.
  • An Open Graph protocol. The Open Graph protocol allows publishers to tell Facebook what type of data their content represents. With this information, the site can facilitate new kinds of interactions. For instance, as the Financial Times explains, "Liking a movie on the IMDB film website would include that movie in the user's interests in their Facebook profile, with a link back to the original site."
  • The Open Graph API. The Open Graph API will give developers far more access to Facebook's massive database. As detailed by CNET News.com, "There are a handful of new features, like a juiced-up search feature that will now make it possible for developers to search all public data on Facebook."

Needless to say, Facebook's announcements this year could be the company's biggest bet. Jennifer Leggio at ZDNet asks, "Has Facebook won the web war against Google?" and MG Siegler at TechCrunch goes so far as to state, "I think Facebook just seized control of the internet."

To be sure, Facebook's ambitions are grand, and there are plenty of reasons to bet on the company's success. Despite all of its mistakes, the company always seems to come out ahead. But in my opinion, it's premature to declare that these announcements are as "transformative" as Facebook would have us believe. These new features are bound to create new privacy concerns, and even if the Open Graph looks great on paper, getting it to work and making it meaningful to consumers in the real world are a different matter altogether.

On this note, I think the biggest question that can be asked is not "Is Facebook capable of delivering a semantic web?" but rather "Do consumers even want one?" Perhaps if the Open Graph is good enough, we just might get an answer.

Photo credit: Robert Scoble via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 22 April, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2392 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

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Josh

Facebook users just want to be friends and talk to each other. Anything that dilutes this is going to take time to settle in...

Remember Beacon?

over 6 years ago

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Mike

i really agree and use facebook lot, i have mostly on facebook due to business reasons but never seen any website reaching near facebook with same features as it has...while twitter have status.net as competator

over 6 years ago

Nigel Sarbutts

Nigel Sarbutts, Managing Director at BrandAlert

I'm not going to bet against Facebook making this an important development but boiling everything down to whether I do or don't like something is too simplistic an approach to make this particularly meaningful. Like everyone else I share opinions, ideas and facts for a range of reasons and with a range of emotions propelling them and I use a range of networks for different personaes and contacts. If the trajectory of the web is making sense of things through semantics, this looks to be an on/off switch way of look at meaning that pays no heed to different networks for different purposes, which makes no sense to me.

over 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Nigel, I tend to agree that this is probably going to be far too simplistic approach. That said, what works usually is simple. In my mind, the question is still whether or not consumers really need and want a semantic web.

over 6 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

So with their suggested use of the 'Like' feature, FB will know every website page you visit?

Justin Smith, founder of InsideFacebook.com: "When someone "likes" your page, that is a valuable action because it means you will be able to publish updates directly to them in the future which could be used for a variety of purposes like promoting traffic to your website or advertising anything you want." ... really?!

Anything they want? I don't think people would "like" that at all. In fact that would be the death of the whole principle.

over 6 years ago

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Phil

  Great articles. Nice work. This is probably going to be far too simplistic approach.  Google doesn't seem to be getting a look in, for once, in this space. Good  job !

about 6 years ago

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nick

as i am using facebook i think facebook is one of the most entertainment social networking in the world.In facebook u can get all the thing.chating,business,relationships..so i think facebook is good.....and it is social networkin because it is used all over the world......now facebook captured all the other social networking....because not of his popularity but of his good features...... Great articles. Nice work.

about 6 years ago

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David

I wonder whether the author has ever seen and used Facebook because if he knew what is the role and type of videos on Facebook he would never be "surprised'. Facebook Videos is like flickr for videos, the overlap with YouTube is minimal to none.

about 6 years ago

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sam

 I share opinions, ideas and facts for a range of reasons and with a range of emotions propelling them and I use a range of networks for different personaes and contacts. If the trajectory of the web is making sense of things through semantics. Anything that dilutes this is going to take time to settle in the facebook.facebook is more for talk to each other rather than much social networking....what hence used all over the world......

about 6 years ago

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Walk In Tubs

Great articles. Nice work. This is probably going to be far too simplistic approach. Facebook users just want to be friends and talk to each other

over 5 years ago

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