Yesterday Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO made a series of announcements about “Open Graph” which may result in a huge change in the way we experience the internet.  These changes put it directly in competition with Google.

Why Facebook Matters

The growth in the Facebook user base is staggering:

  • 400 million active users
  • More than 5 billion pieces of content shared each week
  • Over 60 million status updates posted each day
  • 100 million users of Facebook Connect (a way for external websites to integrate with Facebook, the precursor to Open Graph)

The scale and reach of Facebook is astonishing and their growth shows no signs of slowing.

What is Open Graph?

Today Facebook keeps track of connections between people.  The goal of Open Graph is to extend that to include connections between people and interests including music, food, brands, places and websites.  Facebook will now allow applications and websites to share this information.  The key to how this will work is the new “Like” button.  So let’s say you’re surfing on IMDB and you click the Like button to show that you liked a particular movie.  This information gets posted in your movies section of your profile along with specific information that IMDB passes to Facebook (the title of the movie, the director, etc.).  Inside Facebook, clicking on a movie that a friend has liked on IMDB will take the user directly back to the site.  Outside of Facebook, when users visit a website built with Open Graph, they will be able to see their friends’ activity directly on the site, without having to go back to Facebook.  For example, visitors to CNN can see what stories their friends have liked.

So What Does that Have to Do with Google?

Open Graph makes it very easy for me to discover things (websites, products, brands, restaurants, movies, music) by watching what my friends are doing.  Much in the same way that Twitter has become a news feed for many of us, Facebook can become a sort of interest feed that reaches out and exists across the entire internet. If I’m looking for a movie to watch or new music to listen to or a contractor to fix my roof, a Google search can only take me so far.  The actions and interests of my friends is much more trusted, relevant and helpful to me.  This method of discovering things is a replacement for search as surely as my Twitter feed has become a replacement for my RSS reader.  Not only does Open Graph make it easier for people to discover things on the web, it also provides a huge amount of information about people to web sites which can then deliver highly targeted advertising.  So Facebook becomes a platform for search and advertising – sound like anyone we know?

“The open graph puts people at the center of the web.” Zuckerberg stated in his talk.  And where there are people, there’s Facebook.

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