So what does this mean? Well, developers can now build apps that extend Facebook in meaningful ways that Facebook and its users can interpret. It allows Facebook to transfer and store the data other applications keep about you into its network, the social graph. With this Facebook is creating a more meaningful representation of who you are.
Why? Well let’s face it, Facebook currently has the most sophisticated profiling tool in the world, yet I have yet to click on a Facebook ad. The level of targeting that they achieve is not enough to understand who I am, and thus I don’t click on the ads. With more data, they can start to deliver more relevant ads. To put this into context let’s take the Guardian app. Facebook can now record and store articles you read and use that information to serve you targeted adverts.
So why would developers and companies do this? Two reasons. One, Facebook provides a ready-made social distribution platform and while some would argue that it is not as powerful as it once was (think werewolves and vampires), its power is still unrivalled (and likely to be much better, yet still under control with this release). And two, app developers care about their customers’ experience, and most customers are on Facebook. By integrating we can improve our customers’ online experience and provide them with social features much more simply.
Just before this release Google+ seemed to be riding the crest of a wave. All the pundits loved it, its simple clean interface is fantastic, and if anyone could topple Facebook it would have to be Google. Yet, I feel this Facebook update has put Facebook back firmly in the driving seat. It’s a gigantic step forward. So what can Google do?
Contrary to what other people believe I think that Google+ needs to concentrate on being Google+ and not start pulling in any of Google’s other services. Other Google services need to integrate into Google+ and not the other way round. Their aim should be to become the number one linked data developer platform in the world. The way I see it, it’s now a race between two of the most innovative companies in the world.
The only way they can do this is to build a platform that benefits developers in ways that Facebook’s doesn’t.
Here are my recommendations, some of which apply to Facebook as well:
1) Extend the graph beyond the user:
At the moment Facebook’s graph is user-centric. While this is good, many applications contain more complex relationships. If these can be captured and stored it would provide a much more compelling platform for a developer who can accurately describe how the user is interacting with their application.
2) Create a run time environment:
This will allow app developers to build apps directly onto Google’s infrastructure, accessing the api more quickly and more natively. This is not as important, but would be great in the future. Facebook are already providing something similar for mobile with the Project Spartan that is coming soon. That, it seems will use the browser as its RTE, and access the data via ajax or some html5 feature.
3) Provide a revenue share on any data that is used for advertising purposes:
What does this mean? If your application puts data into the graph and then an advertiser uses that data to target a user successfully, some of the advertising revenue should go back to the applications developer.
I want to see Google+ do well, just so Facebook has competition to keep them on their toes. Competition is always good, and the consumer will benefit. That said, all of the above could be implemented by Facebook.
The good news for consumers is that, although there are privacy concerns and calls of “you are the product”, ultimately, for the vast majority of people, these services will be better than they were before. And while it may scare some of us, the vast majority are going to use these services anyway.