There has been a lot of talk lately about Facebook’s new Instant Personalization and their Open Graph initiative. I have heard a ton of pros and cons about it, primarily swirling around privacy issues and the ability to take your social graph with you around the web (We even covered how to disable it as one of our Tips of the Week on this week’s Global Geek News Podcast). While I think there are valid points to both sides, I think everybody is missing the big picture.
What could the big picture possibly be? Nothing short of the future of the internet! Perhaps I should explain what I mean by such a large claim.
Ask yourself, how much information do you share about yourself online every day? Do you share your name, address, phone number or even social security number? How comfortable are you sharing that information? Now, ask yourself the same question but from the perspective of 5 years ago. Is your answer the same? In all likelihood, it is not. As the internet has grown and we have become dependent upon it, we have come to trust it with many details of our lives. Some put as little information about themselves as possible online for a number of privacy and security related concerns while others live their life publicly by streaming their lives on the internet or blogging and tweeting about the smallest parts of their lives (I fall into the latter category). It is this willingness to share your personal information that Facebook is targeting.
Before I get into the why, let me touch on the why Facebook? For nearly as long as the internet has been around, there has been people using it to gather information about the masses. From what they search for to what they shop for, the smallest bit of information about people can mean big money for companies. Just look at Google, they have taken this information and turned themselves into a multi-billion dollar company. When we are searching for something, very few people realize that our searches are being recorded and analyzed for the purpose of using it to profile you and bring you relevant information. If you want to see what I mean, go search for pretty much anything on Google. Now, log into your Google account and then perform the same search. You got different results didn’t you? That is because when you identify yourself, Google knows about you and has a “better” idea of what you are likely searching for.
With the Google example, unless you are doing a vanity search, you are never entering personal information. This is the kind of information that Google really wished it was able to get. Social networks such as Facebook, already have this information by nature. When you sign up for Facebook or other social networking site, you are asked to put in information ranging from your name to your relationship status to your phone number. The more you enter, the more possibilities open of for you on the site (easier to find new friends and such). By knowing information such as this and the things you ‘like’, Facebook can create a profile of you that lets it know what you want to know before you even knew you wanted to know it. Ever wonder why Facebook is so good at suggesting people to you that are often long lost friends? This is how. Of course there are tons of other social networks where you likely share the same information such as Myspace, but nobody has the number of users or band like Facebook does. Facebook is possibly the only company with the power to let its information travel the internet without a huge public outcry. Now lets talk about the why.
With Facebook’s Instant Personalization you are able to take your social graph with you to any website that wants to take advantage of it. You will be able to share experiences with your facebook friends outside of facebook but still leveraging their service. This is the power of Open Graph and why it has so many people scared for privacy reasons. Many people might not want you dragging their personal information or online presence along with you to whatever sites you visit, but the truth is, that is necessary for the continual evolution of the internet. As these services spread throughout the internet and allow for a new level of interactive experiences, the minds of people are going to begin to change about how they see the idea of putting their private information online. When I asked you how your habits have changed in relation to putting your information online now and 5 years ago, this is essentially the change that I am talking about. This movement is designed to accelerate your desire to share your information everywhere. The more comfortable you are with this, the more money that sites from Google to Facebook to Blippy and countless others will make because they can sell more relevant ads and services to their users. This is essentially a move into this decade when it comes to available information and what can be done with it.
What do you think? Do you like the Instant Personalization features? Do you agree that this is about making you more comfortable about sharing more information in the future? Tell us in the comments!