Why Facebook wants to be your Social Operating System (SOS)

Last night at Facebook's Developer Conference F8, CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out two fundamental changes to the Facebook Platform, which I think are set to change the social networking game all over again. During the 2 hour keynote, the young founder announced a complete overhaul of the Facebook Profile Page (see mine above) - which will roll out to users over the next few weeks, which features a new layout style called "TimeLine" - described by the developers as "the highlights of your life" - the new layout automatically displays top content from your Facebook profile, for the entire duration of your Facebook life. I.E. - I can now scroll through to the videos / photos / status updates, that Facebook thinks was most important to me right from Day 1 of my time on the network.

Although this feature is likely to get the most attention as it is the most fundamental shift for users on the platform for a number of years - what I think is the real story here is the updated tools for Facebook developers - and therefore media institutions, brands and companies - which is OpenGraph. A new addition for applications developers on the Facebook Platform, OpenGraph moves on from the oversimplified social action of the "Like" button, to giving a far more logical and dynamic taxonomy to social actions on Facebook.

Simply put this means that now I don't have to "Like" something to share on Facebook - an application can have permission to automatically share my actions within that app, in a way that makes sense dependant on the content I am consuming. This means Spotify can tell my friends I am "listening" to a "track", BBC iPlayer (when the app is developed for FB) can tell my friends what I am "watching", or YouVersion (the Bible App) can tell my friends which book, chapter or verse I am "reading".

This addition will certainly improve the online experience for users, however for those of us concerned with the recommendation economy - who want to ensure that our apps / tools / products / brands have prominence on the world largest social network - the possibilities of what can now be done here look endless.

Say I am Harley Davidson (Disclosure: they are a client) - I can now create an app that will track my best rides using my GPS on my iPhone. I can let Facebook know through OpenGraph when I am riding, where I am riding and how fast in real time. But now that app doesn't need to build in the functionality of knowing which is my FAVORITE Route, OpenGraph can work that out for me.


Another key feature of OpenGraph is the ranking system called GraphRank which is built into the platform - which Zuckerberg claims will completely shift how application discovery works. GraphRank will now change the way a user discovers apps, by showing them updates in their Timeline from apps that are being used more frequently by their friends. Ergo - if my friend Rob, Jack and Ben all use Spotify on Facebook I am more likely to see updates from Spotify in my newsfeed - making me more likely to try Spotify.

All of these new announcements are exciting and truly progressive, and it's clear that the folks in Palo Alto haven't resting on their social laurels. However I think these new developments are merely signals of a wider plan at Facebook. It is a similar ambition that Google seem to have been pursuing for some time with the various projects associated to Android and Chrome:

The Social Operating System

These new "frictionless" experiences, extensive content and business partnerships and open technologies are not aiming to put Facebook at the heart of the web - they are trying to make Facebook INTO THE WEB. Facebook is endeavouring to become even more intimately attached to the social connections and preferences of users. Until now, your friends have been there, your personal content - your photos and videos have been there - but now the rest of the web can truly be there in real time with you. Why go anywhere else? If I have The Guardian, iPlayer, LoveFilm, Spotify and a whole host of other apps right there in Facebook - with all my friends aswell. It seems the new web may well be here. And it's chock full of recommendations. Welcome to the new operating system. It's a social one.