Open Graph is Facebook's plan to take over the web. Should we be worried?
Mark Zuckerberg, the wunderkind who took Facebook from its pervy Hot or Not beginnings into the world's biggest website, unveiled on Wednesday in San Francisco a new plan to connect all corners of the Internet through Facebook. He calls it Open Graph.
It's all-encompassing, and, I have to hand it to him, very ambitious.
Firstly, it would add Facebook Like buttons to every single bit of content online. Zuckerberg predicted a billion Likes in the first 24 hours of launching.
Once a user "Likes" something, a stream of everything related to that content becomes accessible. If it's music, the music service Pandora will connect it to the relevant music stream. Or if it's news, CNN will connected to the relevant news item. All within the piece of content with the Like button. In Canada, the Globe and Mail is a partner.
To start, there would be 30 partners that will help give the Like button a suite of applications available on any page that has a Like button. Basically, Zuckerberg aims to turn every page on the Internet into a Facebook page.
There will even be a constant bar on the bottom of the screen with Facebook friend, chat and news feed access, no matter where you are on the web. If it sounds like domination, it is. In size and scope, it's gigantic.
Zuckerberg may see himself like as an innovator, but to me he seems more Napoleonic.
Facebook has 400 million users, and is still marching full-steam ahead in terms of expansion.
Yet, its features are becoming more complex (I haven't figured out the boxes yet, and what is its Marketplace?), and its behaviour more troublesome (this week Wikileaks, the international whistleblower site, claims Facebook killed its page and deleted its 30,000 fans).
With a flurry of new applications, partnerships and features, how will Facebook:
a) get users to adopt the changes,
b) control the privacy, and
c) poke their heads out of the walled garden they are creating?
The overall idea here is to become a more semantic web - one that will know more exactly what a user is looking for. With partnerships that span a range of content-providers, that's entirely possible. But it's uncomfortable having Facebook decided who contributes to new smarter web. CNN can, but how about other news outfits, or, fittingly, Wikileaks?
Also, browse Facebook right now and there's limited access to everything if you're not a member. With Facebook's reach onto more and more sites, what will be restricted to members, and what won't? As Zuckerberg even said, there'll be identity attached to everything you do online.
At times, the Open Graph plan sounds Orwellian.
And finally. What's to stop Facebook from becoming a complete walled garden, with its chat and message service, and its final say over applications?
Remember, AOL once had over 30 million users on several continents, and Rome was once an empire. Facebook is not invincible. Well, not yet anyway.[rssbreak]