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Facebook’s changes, announced today, signify a significant shift in the way that the web could work. The Open Graph (and it’s brethren) cranks information in and out of Facebook differently to Facebook Connect, it connects to every site and property that wants to be social with Facebook’s member base, and does it quickly and easily. On the surface sites will start adding ‘like’ buttons, beneath the surface i think it’s Facebook’s big play to own all users, communication, emotion and connections on the web.

Mark Zuckerberg today said that there will be over one billion “Likes” in the first 24 hours, and i’m not surprised.

It looks like Facebook’s soft, blue walls are coming down. You’ll soon see the ‘Like’ button on every site from bands, to celebs, to your bank and your babysitter. There’s will be so much data flooding in and out of Facebook it’s hard to even comprehend. In fact it’s downright scary that one service could own so much information about the Internets’ activity. Once thought to be Google’s domain, the knowledge monopoly looks squarely to shift into Facebooks databanks if this system is embraced the way they hope it will. I’m presuming if i play ball in these new Social Graphs that Facebook will know almost everything about me. Imagine the advertising power that will generate.

Hold onto your hats, this town’s a changing.

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.
‘Open Graph protocol’ on facebook’s developer site

likeIt’s going to be easier to log in and grant publishing rights to and from FB. It’s going to be easier to integrate your own brand site with your Facebook ‘friends’. It’s going to be easier to be a lot more social without having to build the infrastructure yourself. But I’m a bit nervous, and i would think that Google may be too. With these changes, Facebook is basically re-cataloguing the web. Like Google once did and continues to do as our first port of call when we open our browsers. Facebook may become our new default, with a more relevant catalogue of sites for me, connected to all the other things that i need to access.

It feels a little bit like the 2.0 version of the AltaVista from the 90s. Remember the early days of search, when we used to manually submit our sites to search engines before they would index us? The Open Social movement has shades of this, as sites integrate themselves with Facebook they are ultimately submitting their site to a long, long index of websites that will play nice with Facebook. Let’s think about this list, it will be a catalogue of sites that are more likely to be current, savvy, popular and up-to-date. Basically everything on the web that you would ever frequent, trust and re-use. Sounds like a list of all of the new, premium sites on the web, without the backlog of forums, guestbooks, out-of-date info and Geocities (RIP) sites that are slowly fading to the back of search results. To me it sounds like a more efficient, better list of everything that anyone cares about, that is fast to search without the crud.

It’s pretty interesting from a search perspective, but from an advertisers perspective, i feel a bit like Facebook is trying to tease my brand’s customer relationships from their cold dead fingers and into it’s growing lair. This, all done under the guise of better, quicker, cheaper, easier social interactions and monitoring services. This could mean that FB may *own* the ultimate relationship with my customers, and if i want to know anything about that relationship, i’ll be politely asking FB to provide that for me…please? I can’t see that being free or unbiased for very long.

For my money, this goes against the wild-west freeness and choice that makes the web fun. Sure, it makes things easier to manage all in one place, but then trust becomes the issue. “Facebank”, can i really trust you with my entire internet life?

It sounds like i hate Facebook. I really don’t, i quite like it. I do think this could change everything and i’m very intrigued. I’ll certainly be championing ‘Like’ buttons on our client’s pages as of now.

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