I’m back from the f8 conference in San Francisco, and here are some of my thoughts and observations.
Facebook introduced some new ideas, and expanded the existing products. The big announcements were centered around the Open Graph. It essentially allows you to treat any content on the web (identifiable by a unique URL) as an object in the graph. Users can interact with objects, “liking” them and thereby adding them to their profile and subscribing to status updates. This essentially takes Facebook interaction into the open web. It will be interesting to see how this concept evolves, as Facebook definitely hasn’t thought it through completely – specifically issues with duplicated objects from different sources.
Implementation of Open Graph objects is very simple, done through meta tags identifying the object and linking them to the administrator profile or application. Facebook also provides simple social widgets, specifically the like button, activity stream, and recommendations list. These widgets can be included as a simple iframe on any page, and show user’s friends interaction with the site, without requiring the user to login through Facebook Connect, as was previously the case. You can see examples of social widgets on CNN.com
Another big announcement was the Graph API. This is essentially a rewrite of the old API methods available on the Facebook in a simple, REST based fashion. The API centers on the concepts of objects and connections, and is self described through introspection, which allows the developer to see the connections available for the object. The object can be anything within the facebook system – and by extension on the open web through Open Graph. Furthermore, real time API updates ping your system when there are updates to the user data, so that you can take appropriate action. Authentication is based on oAuth 2.0 standard, and is much simpler than current implementation. Permissions are now simplified in one dialog box presented to the end user asking for very granular permission level the application needs.
Smaller, but still crucial updates came in areas of search, Facebook credits, analytics & insights, policy, and more. It’s too much to discuss here, but Open Graph has been the theme of the conference, and all updates center around the idea. Facebook is clearly moving in this direction, and is using its highly active user base to change the way we interact with the web.