Right after the election, I ordered some Obama stickers from MoveOn. When I went to their web site to complete the order, I was surprised to see the option of telling my Facebook friends about it the purchase as part of the transaction. I installed Friends Connect and approved the information for my news feed.I screen captured it for later reference.
A few days ago, Facebook announced its Facebook Connect. It is being described as the next evolution of the Facebook platform that will allow the social activity that was happening inside of Facebook to be anywhere on the web. It can pull personal data about visitors from Facebook - and send back activity reports to their news feeds. It does this by having the user fill out a self-service application. It has been described by some as a "portable social graph." Google also implemented Google Friend Connect a few days ago - so the battle for access to your online identity and social graph is heating up. (See Bryan Alexander's post.)
Some context first. The term "social graph" may be unfamiliar. One of the best definitions that I came across was from Brad Fitzpatrick who defined it as "the global mapping of everybody and how they're related." (To better understand what a social graph is and why it is important, see this primer from the Read/Write Web.)
In November, 2007, Google announced Open Social API. I remember I was working two articles for TechSoup (Social Networking Options and Secrets To Effective Social Networking and considering how to one might explain open to their executive director. At the time, the idea of ubiquitous social networks felt like it was a far from being a reality that might impact many nonprofits. That has changed a bit in the past year as more nonprofits have started to incorporate social networks as part of their web strategies.
If you want a better understanding of what ubiquitous social networking is, read this indepth piece by Charlene Li called "The Future of Social Networks" from March, 2007. She says ubiquitous social networks will develop into the following: 1) Universal identities; 2) A single social graph; 3) Social context for activities; and 4) Social influence defining marketing value.
Razor Fish created the above slide show to illustrate some of the potential for portable social graphs using Facebook Connect as the example. Jeremiah Owyang points to this presentation identifies the following implications:
The social graph, when linked with traditional websites will radically change how we find, research, purchase, and support products. Reviews, ratings, and critiques about products will become more relevant as you can start to get information from your own network. Soon, social technologies will be pervasive and will impact every website –even if they choose not to participate Brands, and their interactive marketing agencies, are starting to include social elements in all aspects of their marketing efforts.
Others in the social media technology industry don't necessarily think Facebook Connect is a step forward. Marc Canter says, "Now over a year later we continue to see evidence that Zuckerberg and Facebook really think the web IS Facebook and that they would do everything they can to suck IN content and people INTO the black hole known as Facebook, and damn the rest of the web." This is a view shared by Stephen Downes
Update: Michelle Murrain posted some thoughts about Facebook Connect - expressing the same opinion as Marc Canter and Stephen Downes:
What is most annoying to me is that Facebook Connect is proprietary,
and it competes with an open standard, OpenID. They could have just as
easily implemented the open standards - but they chose to go in a
different direction. For most of the social networks except for
Facebook, the walls of the gardens are coming tumbling down. But
Facebook is basically just enlarging their walled garden.
What does this mean for most nonprofit organizations? Not a whole lot. This is going to take a long time to all of this to shake out, and only the most Web2.0 savvy nonprofits are going to be doing technology projects that will involve implementing either of these new toolsets.
For nonprofits that were early adopters on Facebook and have built up an network there, there may be some opportunities.
Also this week, Scoble covered someting called PeopleBrowsr which is TweetDeck on steriods. An application that lets you make groups of your contacts across social networks and see them visually. It does a lot more, but it is pretty beta. It's an interim step.
What do you think?