This week, Facebook introduced what it calls the “Open Graph” at its F8 conference for developers and entrepreneurs. While some leading lights in the tech community went nuts, labeling Open Graph “evil” or lamenting yet another web-based privacy apocalypse, most Facebook users, including many genealogists, either yawned or didn’t notice.
So Far, I’m A Supporter
Count me among those that are amazed at Facebook’s ambition and awed by its ability to implement it so effectively. Based on what I know so far, I’m with Martin Bryant of TheNextWeb.com, who described the OpenGraph’s potential for good, not evil:
By providing a ‘Like’ button that developers can add to any website, for any content or subject, Facebook is becoming the central hub for its users tastes and preferences.
Imagine the potential. Amazon can recommend films for you to buy based on what you’ve been looking up on IMDB, Pandora in turn can play music you’ll like based on your friends’ Amazon purchases. Suddenly the web is connected in a far more cohesive way than has ever been possible before. Some of it will be used to promote products to you but there will be a lot of scope for developers to create amazing, new, social services that feed deep into your social graph.
How’s It Work?
Here’s what I saw when I headed over to CNN.com this evening: a module on the right-hand side of the homepage offering me recommendations from my Facebook friends for CNN articles. One of them is from Illya D’Addezio, well known in the genealogy community as the founder of Genealogy Today and Live Roots, among other valuable resources. Apparently, by installing one of Facebooks new “social plugins” on its pages, CNN now has gained access to my “social graph” of friends on Facebook.
Instead of being creeped out by this, I immediately grasped its utility. Now I can more easily access web content that has been curated by friends whose judgment I respect and value. Furthermore, I control that curation and filtering capability by selecting the friends I connect with on Facebook and by setting my own privacy controls.
To recommend the “Life more colorful than black and white” article, Illya just had to click on the “Recommend” button displayed at the bottom of the online text, as shown here.
A “Like Button” for the Entire Web
When I visited Illya’s Genealogy Today site tonight, I found another implementation of Open Graph at the bottom of the homepage: Facebook’s new “Like Button” for the entire web. Rather than going to Facebook and posting a link to Illya’s site into my Facebook News Feed, I can just click on the “Like” button on Genealogy Today and that “like” will show up in my feed automatically.
Of course, the “Become a Fan” button has been around for a while, but Facebook has changed the terminology (“Become a Fan” => “Like”) and made it easier for websites to implement it.
How Could This Help Genealogists?
Here’s a quick list of ways I’d like to see Facebook Open Graph utilized across the online genealogy community:
- My favorite geneabloggers could put the “like” button on their homepages and the “recommend” button after each of their posts. [How about it, Randy?]
- The Family History Library online catalog could have a “like” button next to film/book search results so users could share the records they’re researching with their fellow genealogists on Facebook.
- Footnote (already a pioneer of social collaboration around historical documents) could implement Open Graph features to show users which of their friends were currently active on the site and to pull annotations they make back to their Facebook News Feeds.
- Darrin Lythgoe’s TNG could allow its users to easily implement Open Graph on their sites, making it even easier for extended family to get involved in building out their family tree collaboratively via Facebook.
And What About Genlighten?
Here at Genlighten, we’re currently pondering our own response to Facebook’s new features and we hope to begin implementing them within the next several months. If you have suggestions, concerns or questions, please let us know in the comments to this post!