Open? Can’t we just call it Facebook Graph?


Facebooks key announcements at this years F8 are resonating across the social web, and rightly so. They have seized the “semantic web” initiative, sidelined competitors, flummoxed the chattering class and utterly co-opted an otherwise cool concept all in one fell swoop. I am impressed, very impressed yet my panties are feeling a tad bunched at the same time.

To start, while certainly key contributors, Facebook and company did not create the graph (open, social, giant, whatever) concept. More than a few other bright folks had a hand in its development. Facebook, understandably not comfortable to wait and see how things developed, anticipated the implications, seized the initiative and moved more heaven and earth than others to ensure a commanding position close to the start of the race. They called “shotgun” and it looks like they’re going to be able to make it stick. At the risk of oversimplifying, the net result is a handful of social plugins that businesses are going to find very enticing, indeed. So, what’s my beef? It’s this.

How "open" looks to Facebook

It’s not really open. This is a case of putting perfume on a pig that most folks thought smelled fine to begin with. Why would Facebook do that?  They did this because, and in the fullness of time it will become ever more apparent, these announcements are way more about opening an information spigot into Facebook than support for a true open graph.

Businesses, most of whom have yet to formulate any clear understanding of why they are mucking about in social media to begin with, are going to willingly expose (as in Full Monty expose) what is arguably their single most precious a$$et. Hard earned, proprietary, competitor crushing customer information.

Even the lotus eaters of the social web have to be snickering, at least a little, at this prospect. Facebook has offered a, mostly, one way pipe straight into their data stores. To carry the pig analogy a little further…they stand to cut a real fat hog on this one!

This isn’t, as has been described by some, evil empire level stuff. Not yet anyway. It is a solid push by Facebook to do what you might well expect of any firm in their position. Be sharp, play to your strength and exploit opportunities to your fullest advantage. They are doing this rather well. What about the rest of us?

Well, as business propositions go, if you are going to give up the goods at least give them up in a manner that is to your greatest advantage. Let every other Facebookish operator  have an equal shot at your precious a$$et too and see who works hardest, innovates the greatest and delivers the most to benefit your organization in the process. Currently, Facebook need not feel burdened by any such compulsion. They have 400 million

How "open" looks to Jim

served and you don’t. You are led to believe, however, that you just might get you some of that action. Maybe. Maybe not.

Open Up

Open needs to be just that. Open. Business is free to choose how and with whom they share their information. If in their quest to get social they decide to hand over the key to the kingdom, they should make extra copies and hand them to all reasonable prospects. A true open graph would facilitate this. They’ve enough concerns without lashing themselves to one behemoth for time immemorial.

I suspect most businesses have no idea just how much sharing they will actually be doing as they adopt the new Facebook Open Graph or any form of the open graph for that matter. Most cannot adequately articulate the business case for their existing Facebook relationship(s)….. beyond the aforementioned lusting after the 400 million.

Many busunesses do not understand what is being offered, what is in play here, at all. This is all happening to them, not with them. They will participate by default and never know the extent of the consequences, until too late. For some many, it just won’t really matter. For those whom it does/should matter, “open” needs to be the rallying cry of the day. Open Graph is possible and, nifty as this is, it isn’t open. Not really.

Interested in a little more on this? Check these folks out:

Jeremiah Owyang

Chris Messina

Mahendra Palsule


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