This morning at the F8 conference, Facebook announced the launch of a distributed or deportalized “Like” functionality. Techcrunch explains how it works:
The Like button works exactly like it does on Facebook (and other sites like FriendFeed): it allows users to show their approval of any piece of content on these sites with one click. You can also include a little note saying why you like the item. (…) These likes are then transported back to Facebook and integrated into users’ profiles. Notably, if you like a movie on IMDb, it will be pushed into your favorite movies area on your Facebook profile.
I’ve tried it on IMDB, the movie database site, where I “liked” the Peter Sellers’ movie The Party. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you will see on the right-hand side of the page the fact that I “like” the movie and my Facebook avatar. You can click on the Like button to signal you like the movie.
The action is then broadcast to the Facebook newsfeed, where your friends can click back and see the information on the IMDB site. Please note that you can’t “like” or “comment” on that activity inside Facebook, only on IMDB.
The new “Like” button is part of a new suite of social functions available for third party Websites. That suite called Open Graph includes the Facebook login (formerly Facebook connect), social plugins and a toolbar.
What it means: Wow. What a sexy concept. It’s easy to implement, it’s easy for consumers to use and it promotes your site within Facebook. Sounds like it’s a no-brainer. Everyone should implement it, no?
Let’s think about it for a second before moving too fast.
The future of the Web will be all about “structured data” and “social”. It will be about analyzing human interactions and surfacing relevant content in a sea of information/noise. If you want to build value in the future, you need to make sure you’re able to extract the social interaction data and analyze trends. That’s what Facebook is doing. They’ve managed to build a great identity system and are now building a a graph of people’s interest using external content and traffic. Facebook is building the ultimate social utility.
Will you be able to capture trends and surface relevant content if you “outsource” some of your basic social functions to Facebook? I’m not sure. You need to be able to tie social actions to your core structured data. I still believe it’s critical to use the Facebook identity system (log-in and social graph) but be careful of other social plugins. You might be giving away the future of your business to the social network giant. And by the way, you can probably create your own “Like” button that broadcasts to Facebook using the Facebook login…
In the local space, Yelp has just implemented the whole social kit from Facebook but note how they’re using the “like” button: “A use-case that we’re all excited about: perhaps you see a 3-star business and you’re unsure of whether you want to try it. But you see that several of your friends have “liked” it so you give it a shot and it’s really a 4-star business in your book. So now you can write a review telling people how great it is! “. They’re using the Facebook Like button as a backup system to their own rating system. They’re not surrendering their main social functions to Facebook. They understand their core business and are leveraging Facebook’s identity system and social graph. That’s smart. Make sure you’re as smart as Yelp when you start implementing these new tools.
Update: ReadWriteWeb has some concerns has well and write “At first blush, it’s hard from a user’s perspective to find anything to criticize Facebook for in today’s announcements. Those criticisms will no doubt start to form once people wrap their heads around all the particulars. On principal, though, there’s going to be so much more Facebook around the internet that it feels like a real cause for concern. Centralization is a dangerous thing and Facebook is a young company that’s proven willing to break its contract with users in the past”