One Graph To Rule Them All?
My partner Albert posted this on his blog yesterday:
He's talking about Facebook and the new services they announced this week at f8. Clearly Facebook is executing fast and well at a scale that few Internet companies have ever reached. It is very impressive to watch.
But I see at least one flaw with this plan for domination. I simply don’t believe that there is a single social graph that makes sense. I may very well follow someone’s booksmarks on del.icio.us that I don’t want to have any other relationship with. Or take the group of people that I feel comfortable sharing my foursquare checkins with — these are all people I trust and would enjoy if they showed up right there and then. That group in turn is different from the people I work with on Google docs for various projects which is why I would be nervous about using the Microsoft docs connected to Facebook. Trying to shoe-horn all of these into a single graph is unlikely to work well.
But I am with Albert on the issue of one social graph for the entire web. I don't think it will happen either. And we are putting our money where our mouths are by backing companies like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Disqus, GetGlue, and others (remember del.ico.us?) that are building different social graphs.
Today Facebook is the mainstream social network and where most people keep their entire social graph. The other services I mentioned, with the exception of Twitter, have not built large mainstream social graphs. But I think they will for the exact reasons Albert articulated.
I want to share some things with the widest group of people that is possible. Those things end up on this blog and/or Twitter. I want to share some things with the smallest group possible (like checkins on Foursquare and financial transactions on Blippy). That behavior requires a very tight, very private social graph.
Facebook sits in the middle of all of this and has created the largest social graph out there. These other social graphs can and will grow in the wake of Facebook. I am not sure if Facebook's ambition is to create the one social graph to rule them all but if it is, I don't think they will succeed with that. If it is to empower the creation of many social graphs for various activities and to be in the center of that activity and driving it, I think they are already there and will continue to be there for many years to come.
I want to thank my friend Mo Koyfman and my partners Brad and Albert for helping me crystalize my thinking about this over the past few weeks. It is a very important topic for those of us who invest in the social web.