Turning the Social Network Inside Out: What the Changes at Facebook Mean For Apple and Google-and You

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Open Graph will become one of the main conduits for app discovery. You can bet that mobile developers are already shaking off their post-f8-party hangovers today and figuring where to put the “Add to Timeline” buttons in their apps, and what kinds of deeper Facebook integration to attempt. Facebook’s argument, articulated at f8 by chief technology officer Bret Taylor, is that the more opportunities for sharing and expression that app developers can give to their users, the faster their apps will spread. “The app that is able to set the expectation that everything is social up front—that is the app that is going to win,” Taylor said. When you have 800 million users, that’s a pretty easy case to make.

And we haven’t even heard the whole story from Facebook yet. The company said very little at f8 about its strategy for the mobile world: for example, there was no announcement, as I (and many other commentators) had expected, about a new Facebook app for the iPad. It appears that the company didn’t want to dilute the message about Open Graph at f8, and plans to wait a few more weeks before talking about mobile initiatives such as its massive Spartan project. That’s an effort to use HTML 5 technology to create a version of Facebook that has app-like functionality but runs inside the Safari mobile browser on the iPad, thereby sidestepping Apple’s content controls and sales commissions. Once Facebook has made Timeline, Ticker, and all its other improvements accessible from the same mobile devices where people are buying and using apps, the whole cycle of content consumption, social recommendations, and content purchases ought to spin that much faster.

So all that walled-garden talk? If it ever made sense, it’s now completely obsolete. I think Jason Kottke was actually somewhat prescient about this in his 2007 post, when he called Facebook “AOL 2.0.” Kottke wrote the following: “Eventually, someone will come along and turn Facebook inside-out, so that instead of custom applications running on a platform in a walled garden, applications run on the Internet, out in the open, and people can tie their social network into it if they want.” He was exactly right—but it turns out that the “someone” is Facebook itself.

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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