The Future of Open Graph and Facebook Social Plugins

Written by AnonymousJanuary 2, 2011
Facebook Open Graph

Facebook and Open Graph have effectively begun the process of integrating the social network into the rest of the web. The question is, what does this mean for the future of media outlets, third-party websites and developers, and other, competing social networking environments?

Facebook describes Open Graph as a protocol that “enables you to integrate your Web pages into the social graph.” This “social graph” is essentially what’s created when websites start to integrate and share services and user information with one another.  Sites like Pandora map out one aspect of the graph by learning what songs you like and improving the user experience based on those statistics. Facebook social plugins and Open Graph APIs aim to provide developer’s with tools to integrate their part of the social graph with the world’s biggest social network.

We’ve all had experience using the “Like” button for sharing content from other websites, and the Facebook Connect feature for logging into other services with our Facebook ID. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Open Graph’s potential to change how we interact with websites and content online. The end goal of these Open Graph APIs is, as Mark Zuckerberg puts it, to “create a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken.”

How will Open Graph impact the future user experience?

The average internet user is already using Open Graph APIs integrated by website developers everyday. However, many do not realize that by using these social plugins to share and discover content through Facebook, they are effectively lessening their dependence on search engines. The more Facebook is able to integrate other sites and services into their own using plug-ins, web apps, FB Connect integration, and Open Graph APIs, the less you will rely on Google and other services to find and share content. The end goal of the social graph appears to be a future where Facebook is at the center of the web with other websites acting as highly integrated apps at the user’s disposal.

This all may sound like a win/win situation for the Facebook-centric internet user, but take a second to consider what this means for how they and the rest of us interact with the web on a daily basis.

How Open are you willing to be?

If Facebook gets its way, you will have to opt-out on any website integrated with Open Graph APIs in order to avoid having your personal information shared among not only the site, but your Facebook network as well. You can already access sites such as Microsoft Docs, Yelp, and Pandora without logging in or using FB Connect, as long as you are currently logged into your Facebook account. Pandora, for example, can automatically start playing music from artists you like as soon as you visit the site, with no login or user input required. It does this, of course, by accessing data from your Facebook account.

It appears a smarter, more personalized web requires user’s to be much more transparent while online than ever before. Essentially, the more information you are willing to share, the better the end experience. The question is, how Open are you willing to be?

The biggest concerns are of course privacy. An ever-growing list of Open Graph partners such as Pandora and Yelp are already actively collecting user data ranging from friends lists to likes and interests. While this allows for a more customized end-user experience, it comes at the expense of user privacy. It’s quite obvious the social network is aiming to have a more transparent and open web, as this is something Zuckerberg has talked about in the past.

The future of Open Graph for developers

Social plug-ins are quickly accounting for a large amount of traffic flowing into websites. With sites like ABC reportedly experiencing a 250% increase in referral traffic, and 100% increases for others such as IMDb and Scribd, there’s no denying the power of Facebook’s half a billion users.

Integrating Open Graph APIs into your website or app is absolutely essential these days. Facebook is effectively becoming a content discovery service that is changing the way users discover, share, and search for not only content, but services, products, and everything in between.

For many it’s hard to imagine an internet where Facebook controls the flow of traffic into the rest of the web. Others see Open Graph and social plug-ins as push towards a new web, a web 3.0 of sorts. These new technologies are changing the way in which the web is integrated, effectively transforming the way average users search, share, and discover, and providing not only an alternative, but also a better way to search the web. 

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