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The Next Open Graph: Changing Apps and Changing Industries?

By   /  September 22, 2011  /  No Comments


Get ready for a new wave of Open Graph-enabled applications — and maybe for how they’ll change the game in their industries, too.

At the Facebook F8 developers’ conference today, Mark Zuckerberg discussed how the work the company’s been engaged in over the last year – to make the Open Graph protocol the foundation for mapping all the connections in the world – is going to “make it possible to build a completely new class of applications and rethink a lot of industries at the same time.”

Some basics:  To make the world more open and connected requires mapping out everything everyone is connected to, and to that end Facebook is adding verbs to the nouns that users have so far only been able to ‘Like’. Zuckerberg said that it’s far more likely most people have read more books or seen more movies than they’d actually want to Like, so now they’ll have the option instead to choose that they’ve ‘watched’ a movie, ‘read’ a book, ‘hiked’ a trail, and so on.

“This will enable an order of magnitude more connections than you could have before,” he said. “Open Graph is helping to define a brand new language for how people can connect….We’re adding verbs so you can connect to anything you want. But we are building this language carefully and slowly.”

Additionally, Facebook is adding in the form of the Ticker what it calls a lightweight place to see the stream of things going on around you. Think of it as the continually evolving and less obtrusive repository of your less momentous activities, the place where Open Graph-enabled actions can be recorded without annoying friends with every miniscule move in your News Feed. These actions also will show up on the new Timeline interface, a single continually scrolling page that pulls out the highlights of your life. If your activities ultimately point to some interesting patterns, then they’ll make it into the News Feed.

“Before today there was no socially acceptable way to express lightweight activity and now there is,” Zuckerberg said. “It lets people express an order of magnitude more things than before. That is the next v of Open Graph. …We think this will make it possible to build a completely new class of social applications not possible before.” Add to that that eventually, Facebook thinks, almost all applications people use will be be social.

Change, Change, Change

So, onto changing the industries by changing the apps. Open Graph, he explained, lets applications focus on filling out user Timelines and on discovering new things through friends in what Zuckerberg described as a frictionless experience, with real-time serendipity, and inclusive of finding patterns in friends’ activity. Frictionless gets rid of the annoying pop-up requests about whether you’d like to share something from an app – new Open Graph apps will add for users their lightweight activities, like listening to a song, to their Timelines and Tickers (without continually asking if they’d like to share).

“The best way to think of these apps is that you are connecting the app and Timeline together, adding all the activity to your Timeline and keeping them in synch going forward,” he said. For instance, the new Open Graph Spotify music app adds to a user’s Timeline the songs she listens to, radio stations, albums, and – Zuckerberg was careful to point out – the user can control who sees that, too.

The second point is about seeing in your Ticker, for instance, what your friends are doing live, like listening to a song. You can tick in, hover over it, and play it in line.  “You discover a huge amount of new music this way,” he said. And if your Ticker notes you’re listening to same, then your friends may join in, and so on and so on till it’s wildfire through the social graph.

This all, he said, gets more interesting as you move from a single activity such as listening to a single song – which he says is great to surface on Ticker – to discovering patterns in friends’ activities. For example, maybe a bunch of friends just listened to the same artist at the same time. Those are interesting enough patterns that News Feed decides to highlight them and provide friends a more explicit opportunity to discover them, he said. Or a lot more historical data can be rolled up categories, like the Music Timeline view in Facebook. “By looking at patterns in your friends’ activities you can discover some really neat new things,” he said.

What are the industry game changers here? As Zuckerberg said, for an example, “I’m excited to see what the next wave of music companies are doing with Open Graph.” The new music men aren’t about blocking users from songs but about “letting you discover so many songs that you end up buying more content than you ever would otherwise. This model requires discovering more music, and what better way to do that than via friends?” he asked.

Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek – one music outfit developing to Open Graph – stepped on stage to back Zuckerberg up, explaining that Spotify users who connect to Facebook listen to more music on a weekly basis and a wider variety of music. They are, he said, more social, engaged and more than twice as likely to pay for music.

Music’s just a start, of course, and Zuckerberg pointed to more than a dozen companies beyond Spotify engaging on this OpenGraph front. Similar paths apply to movies, books, tv, and the entertainment genre as a whole. “With Open Graph this next wave of companies understand that if you can help people discover an order of magnitude more content than before, that enables a whole wave of new models,” he said. “We’re not just rethinking the experience of watching content with friends, but we are rethinking entire industries.”





About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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