An important, but under-reported part of the the recent Facebook Open Graph launch, is the power it gives brands in the spreading of ideas. Graphs are ideally designed, both theoretically and practically, for the diffusion of innovation.
I produced the diagram above a few years ago using the Friend Wheel app on Facebook and it illustrates my social graph on Facebook or put more simply my friends on Facebook. It also shows how they interconnect. We chat, share information, use apps, but these activities are confined within Facebook. Facebook Connect opened the rest of web to these connections. This meant that every time I logged-in or did something on a site with Facebook Connect I could share that content with my social graph via their newsfeeds. Facebook's recent launch of the Open Graph to replace Facebook Connect moves this all on one step further.
According to Facebook:
A lot of the reporting on the Facebook Open Graph launch has focused on the spreading of Facebook 'Like Buttons' over the web, which means that a visitor to CNN.com, for instance, can click a button to "like" certain news articles, and see which of their Facebook friends have endorsed content on other websites.
The Open Graph protocol enables you to integrate your web pages into the social graph. It is currently designed for web pages representing profiles of real-world things — things like movies, sports teams, celebrities, and restaurants. Once your pages become objects in the graph, users can establish connections to your pages as they do with Facebook Pages. Based on the structured data you provide via the Open Graph protocol, your pages show up richly across Facebook: in user profiles, within search results and in News Feed.
But for me the really powerful development, is that once somebody has liked your page, you can then directly communicate with them, and consequently their social graph using Facebook Fanpage functionality.
Again from Facebook:
Once users have liked your page, you can publish stream updates to the users who have liked your page and get statistics about your pages just like you can with Facebook Pages. To administer your page, you need to associate it with your Facebook account.This means the people that have liked your page on Facebook, can be treated like Facebook Fans and you will be able to update your fans with news and information, and they'll be able to talk and connect with each other. The like function therefore becomes a tool for the diffusion of innovation, and spreading of ideas.
What perhaps is an even more profound development, is that a network of sites using this functionality will be sharing and providing data to Facebook, and helping it not only map social graphs, but also will now help it map and connect separate parts of the whole web.
Mark Zuckerberg said at the Open Graph launch:
"Yelp is mapping out the part of the graph that relates to small businesses. Pandora is mapping out the part of the graph that relates to music. If we can take these separate maps of the graph and pull them all together, then we can create a Web that's smarter, more social, more personalized, and more semantically aware"Organising and mapping the web was supposed to be Google's job. Facebook's Open Graph is a huge threat to Google. If you thought the battle between these two giants was already intense, you haven't seen anything yet. I can't wait to see what Google's next move will be.