It's not just social networking anymore; it's social domination.
Soon, everything you do on the Web may integrate with the "social graph" Facebook has created. Facebook is integrating user experiences on external sites with Facebook's news feed, effectively transforming what used to be a solitary browsing experience into a sprawling network of connectivity. It's big, it's ambitious, and it may very well change the way we use the Internet.
Facebook is evolving, something that was made clear at this week's f8 conference. Here are three developments that were highlighted there:
Social plug-ins: essentially the Facebook's "like" button splashed all over the Internet. Open Graph: the evolution of yesteryear's Facebook Connect, a feature that simplified sharing the joys of the Internet on your news feed. Open Graph API (application programming interface): designed to allow Facebook and participating sites to blend their respective user "social graphs" to customize their site experience for each individual visitor.
While most sites and companies will likely embrace Facebook's evolution, we should also expect some strong backlash, mainly from Google. Adding the "like" feature to your Web site could change the way products and services are marketed -- a direct blow to Google AdWords, the current leader of online advertising. Some posit the new platform could devastate Google.
With David Bowie-esque changes such as these, people are bound to get frightened. Indeed, with Facebook's prior problems with privacy, it's not farfetched to foresee pockmarked roads ahead. The big issue I see is how Facebook will store user data. "We've had this policy where you can't store and cache any data for more than 24 hours, and we're going to go ahead and we're going to get rid of that policy. We think that this step is going to make building with Facebook Platform a lot simpler," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. Apparently the audience cheered, but that kind of language makes me nervous.
When it comes to competition for the crown of social networking, Facebook essentially has none. MySpace is old, dead news. Google Buzz suffered far too many setbacks upon release. But before overhauling its platform, Facebook was relegated to its own (over 400 million strong) corner of the Web. Now it could be the Web.