Why Facebook Now Controls The Internet
Since their announcements at F8 about Open Graph Protocol (OGP), I’ve been following Facebook far more closely that I normally do. Why? From the moment I watched the videos about what OGP does, I knew that the way the internet works will be changed forever. Today I saw something that confirms that Facebook now controls the internet. No, I’m not saying that to be sensational or dramatic, I believe it to be true…a shift has occurred with OGP that will forever change how brands and consumers interact, and Facebook owns it all. How do I know? Because long time rival Google is already embracing Facebook’s new protocol.
More about that in a moment. But first, if you are not familiar with what Facebook has done, let me give you a very brief overview.
What Does Open Graph Do?
Websites can now be uniquely dynamic, not globally static. In other words, each visitor to a site will experience it in a way that no other visitor ever will.
For example, when a visitor goes to a website and logs in using Facebook, they will see which of their friends “like” the site, a single page or even an individual product. In addition to the “like” feature, any site can customize the user experience by displaying personally relevant information like upcoming birthdays, events or hobbies of their friends. In all, there are sixteen categories of personal information that can be shared on the site, creating an experience that is unique for each visitor.
As a brand marketer that focuses on social media optimization (here is a list of companies that I currently or recently have worked for), I’m incredibly excited about how this changes the scope of how we can interact and engage with consumers. It’s a brave new world.
Proof That Facebook Now Controls The Internet
Given what websites are now able to create unique and very personal experiences on their sites, it’s no surprise that many are clamoring to understand and incorporate Open Graph Protocol into their online communities. I wouldn’t think that every company would be anxious to use OGP, however; companies that view Facebook as competition in any way are no doubt less-than-thrilled with this announcement. One such company is Google.
It’s no secret that there is more than a little competition between Google and Facebook. This Wired piece from February 2010 says it well, “this time it’s personal”. It’s not a new rivalry, there are many articles going back several years that describe a similar cut-throat mentality of competition. Given this, I’m truly surprised that even Google has started to incorporate Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol into some of their sites. Today, I discovered that YouTube, a company that is Google owned, is using OGP is a very creative way.
My friend and social media pro Josh Groth put up a link to a video on his Facebook page today. I thought it sounded interesting, so I clicked the link that brought me directly to the YouTube page and started watching (the quite excellent) ukulele rendition of MGMT’s Kids. That’s not the amazing part…what I was shocked to see was the prompt just below the video encouraging me to log into YouTube with my Facebook account! Facebook Connect for YouTube isn’t new, it was implemented last year. However, this move appears to cement into place the premise that YouTube (and therefore Google) needs Facebook.
Although I didn’t log in, it’s a brilliant move by YouTube, and I’m sure many companies will follow. If I had permitted the application to log me in via Facebook, I would have given YouTube full permission to contact me anytime via email, and to pull my personal information (and that of my friends) from Facebook whenever they wanted to, day or night. I would be giving them the keys to the kingdom, so to speak.
I asked somebody to log into the same video, first by directly visiting the URL in their browser without going through Facebook. The result? There was not a prompt to log in with Facebook. Next, they clicked through the link for the same video (same URL) that I had posted on my wall in Facebook. This time the prompt for them to sign in via Facebook was there. Want to see for yourself? Click the link here to go directly to the YouTube video page, then click the link here to go to my Facebook social media page so you can click through to the same video, but from Facebook. Do you see what I see? The prompt to log in only displays (for now) for the traffic that comes directly from Facebook.
This means that YouTube is using referral data (how you get to there site, where you are coming from) to determine if you will see the prompt for Facebook connect. It stands to reason that if you are going to YouTube directly from Facebook, you will be more likely to log in using the Facebook method…which of course increases the amount of information that YouTube can gather, store and use about you. All in all, it’s very clean and smart marketing.
What This Means
As much as I can appreciate the fact that YouTube is really embracing Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol, it’s hard for me to look past that fact that it is really Google using it. In my mind, Google’s continuing embrace and use of technology that clearly incorporates and benefits Facebook is quite telling: Facebook has rolled out something that is so beneficial to every brand and company that has a web presence, Facebook now controls the internet.
Checkmate. Well played, Facebook.