What Facebook OpenGraph Means For You
Yesterday, Facebook announced a pretty startling piece of strategy to go with their Timeline, it’s called OpenGraph. The idea is to collect things about you passively, so you can share effortlessly. The goal is to send everything you do, everywhere, on the Web, to Facebook.
Before I get too far into being a technology geek with this, I’m going to pick apart this very important statement, included on this link, to exclude the marketing speak, and define precisely what all of it means:
“We are now extending the Open Graph to include arbitrary actions and objects created by 3rd party apps and enabling these apps to integrate deeply into the Facebook experience.”
We are now extending the Open Graph
The OpenGraph is a way for third party websites (everyone and everything on the Internet willing to have a Facebook Like button, Facebook comments, Facebook connect, or any Facebook powered-feature) to send data about actions on the website to Facebook.
The data these third party websites send to Facebook is comprised of your actions on that website. Here’s a neat thing, you don’t even have to currently have Facebook open in the browser for this to work. When you log in to Facebook it creates something called a “session”, this session information is stored in your browser for a very, very long time… unless you manually delete it. This session information does have an expiration date attached to it, but that expiration date is perpetually moved to the future every time something you do touches Facebook.
to include arbitrary actions
Arbitrary - Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.
Actions – Things that I can record with some simple programming:
- What you’re reading
- Where you came from (Directly? Search Engine? Website? Which one?)
- Your IP address (thus giving me your approximate location, who provides your Internet, whether you’re at home or at work sometimes, etc)
- When you scroll your mouse
- How long you wait between getting to a page until you scroll
- If you click on anything
- If you’re currently looking at the page you opened, of it it’s just idle
- If you’re typing
- Did you comment? Did you share it?
and objects created by 3rd party apps
“Objects”, there’s a thing I get in programming sometimes, and anyone who’s done PHP, Python, or .NET development has seen something similar to this word “objects” before. There’s one error in particular, “Object not set to an instance of an object”.
It means exactly what it says. “Something isn’t set to something”. Clear and distinct, right? Wrong. This ominous piece of the phrase really puts the nail in the coffin for me in how I’ll be interacting with Facebook from now on. This makes OpenGraph scarier than tracking mouse activity and time on page status, I mean, tracking activity on a page is simply what every single website already runs anyway, so there’s really no worry about that… except for who gets that data and to what end, of course.
and enabling these apps to integrate deeply into the Facebook experience
Let’s talk about the “Facebook experience”. Facebook is a revenue generating machine: in order for people to get into Facebook they have to share, and they have to share things that are relevant to their personality and who they are. You need to openly sacrifice who you are to Mark Zuckerberg, in order to get the most out of their product.
In fact, Facebook is only as good as what you, the user, gives Facebook. Let’s consider this for a second. If all you do when you log in to Facebook is play Farmville, the only thing Facebook knows about you is that you like to play games. Perhaps you never buy a single Facebook Credit, and Facebook never gets that 30% cut from Zynga… well, then all you are is a freeloader on their platform.
Without any data, you’re more useless to their product, and fall into a worthless bucket that their advertisers can’t target. In fact, if you don’t have any Likes, Shared pages, Places checked into, and only a half-dozen friends, you’re not only worthless to Facebook, but you’re also worthless to Zynga.
So in order to make the Facebook experience more meaningful to … Facebook, they need arbitrary things from everywhere else online in order for their product to actually work, and for you to be worth anything.
What’s this mean for all the happy, smiley, people in the above graph?
- Whatever you watch on Netflix is instantly shared on Facebook, no matter if you liked it or not.
- Whatever you listen to on Spotify is instantly shared on Facebook whether you like it or not.
- Whatever you cook, however, you have to pro-actively share, but I’m more than certain that it’d be within Facebook’s best interest to find a way around that as soon as possible. Perhaps a Facebook satellite is next.
No big deal right? If you don’t want to share it with people, you don’t really have to share it with your friends, right?
See, here’s the biggest thing about Facebook. The second you share anything with Facebook, Facebook keeps it, and uses it, forever and ever. Don’t believe me? Just wait until “Timeline” shows up, and your entire existence on Facebook (including all the crap you probably forgot about) spews back up for the world to see.
Help Wanted! Position: Data Entry. Pay: $0 an hour.
The fun part is, you, the user, will jump to the scene immediately and mine through all your data to make sure whatever shows up properly represents you to the people who can see your timeline. This basically forces you to make you a more accurate data point in the Facebook product. This is genius, because who on Earth would want to have to pay someone to clean up old data and stale information from a database that includes millions upon millions of pieces of information? I know I wouldn’t, I’d rather just show off all the crap no one wants to see, and slap a layer of accountability to it to force people to clean it up for me.
The Illusion of Privacy
If you’re not going to share on Facebook, we’ll get the sites you frequent to do it for you. Zuckerberg, in his own words, during yesterday’s keynote said it, clear as day: Frictionless. This means, you don’t have to do anything to give Facebook you. They’ll just take it. You, the point of Friction in their data mining, has just been excluded from the process. Facebook will still leave it up to you, whether you’ll let your friends and family see what you post though.
So, thanks to Facebook and their wild success over the past few years, and their slow boil into becoming the ultimate “Big Brother”, here’s what we (the few that give a crap about not letting Zuckerberg own our lives) get to do:
- Mine through our data points and delete everything we don’t like (by the way, Facebook still keeps it)
- Log out of Facebook
- Delete all Browser Cookies and stored-sessions
- Continue to perhaps use Facebook from an Incognito Window in Chrome, if you really can’t delete your account
- Or – just delete your account (a process that is almost impossible to achieve at this point)
09.24.11 • posted in: Technology