Open Graph Brings SEO Opportunities to Facebook

So Facebook’s push for Open Graph integration, where the “Like Button” replaces the direct link, creates new opportunities for businesses to focus on Facebook’s search mechanism.  Some initial tests indicated that it is possible to now optimize for Facebook search, i.e. bringing SEO to Facebook.

Facebook Open Graph allows one to connect their site to Facebook without full integration, simply using new Facebook Meta Tags and the Like Button (a snipped of Javascript code).  Facebook is tracking these likes and building a “graph” of the Internet based upon the recommendations of your social network, and now they are including relevant results when you search Facebook for something.

This creates an opportunity for companies that are bringing their brand to Facebook to get additional exposure through Open Graph, which creates an incentive to use the technology.  This is exciting, as the move to the “walled garden” of social media threatened to disrupt the open world of search.  In the past, users could recommend a page on their blog, creating a “link graph” for the search engines to use, but now it’s easier to just click “share” and send the link out to your friends that way.  Without this part of the link graph, the search engines are missing out on the recommendations that they build their systems upon.

Open Graph brings out the ability to restore this, even if Facebook is the only company taking advantage of it for now.

AIM vs. Twitter: Why didn’t AIM Become the Center of the Social Web?

When my wife and I were discussing social media, and I mentioned that at Third Solutions we use Skype for IM, and at ASG Group we were using Twitter, she asked me if we had gotten old? When I arrived at MIT in 1997, I ran ICQ for friends from home + Zephyr for talking to classmates, the next year the freshmen showed up with big lists of AIM friends, and by the time I left school, ICQ and Zephyr were basically dead and AIM dominated communication.

Here is it, over 10 years later, and I still use AIM as a constant business communication tool, but it certainly lacks any hype or excitement. Gmail accounts form the basis of OpenID, yet AOL with 20 years of AOL accounts and 10-15 years of AIM accounts couldn’t make themselves the login option of choice for the community web or the Web 2.0 world.

An old AOL hand asks, “Could AIM Have Been Twitter?”  AOL fought third party integration, mostly because Microsoft was at the time masters of embrace and extend, and the only on-ramp was the weird open access AOL published for the Tik client that we ran on Unix, with limited access.  While AOL had the users, they didn’t have the culture of centrality.  Openness may have helped, but the open-IM groups pushed by Yahoo and MSN fizzled, Jabber went nowhere, and even though Google via Google Chat supports Jabber, Facebook chat seems more vigorous.

I think that AOL could have done a lot with their platform.  But the corporate culture, more than the business around technology, prevented them from being cool.  Everything AOL bought saw talent flee to start-ups and generally fall apart.  Other than picking up Time Warner for a steal, they weren’t able to use their early lead in the Internet, perhaps because of their Internet for the Masses reputation, they couldn’t be “cool” to the technologists, so even if the masses used AIM, nobody was building upon AIM.  That, more than AOL’s internal walled garden mentality, is why AIM didn’t become Twitter.

Virtual Worlds are Booming while out of Spotlight

When I was in Middle School, I learned the Scheme programming class as part of an experimental math program.  While most computer science students recall wrapping their mind around functional programming languages (most elite Universities offer some LISP derivative instruction, Scheme, Common Lisp, Haskel, etc.).  As someone who loved playing online, this knowledge base made learning MUSH programming for TinyMUSH derived systems great, creating objects with commands on them in the internal LISP dialect.

So when Second Life hit the scene, I took immediate interest.  Alas, my personal life didn’t leave much time for video game playing, and I never got involved in what turned into the most fascinating “old is new again” story, where what looks like early 1990s Virtual Worlds combined with 1980s online gaming via TinyMUSH has developed a small but dedicated following.

Who uses it, I have no idea, as all my gamer friends seemed to spend a few years on World of Warcraft (my wife can describe making me shower after playing Diablo 2 for 3 straight days, so I can appreciate the obsession with a new Blizzard game, even if I got bored after leveling by guy to 60 pre-expansion), and my technology friends were into other areas, and Second Life seemed just too low tech to be interesting.  The media, latching on to whatever seems unique, appeared to have taken a huge interest in a non-technology company… a category I put Twitter in a few months ago, other than an example as to how Ruby on Rails was NOT a solution for a scalable need.

Yet while the media attention has moved to Twitter, the Online Worlds are minting money.  The subscription model, plus online items that can establish value, other in game or out of game, has created its own economy.  Twitter has tremendous influence on the media, and the application has a huge following in metro areas (where people go out taking cabs or mass transit, and update from their phones) where the media is located, but seems to have a small number of users compared to other mediums.

The recession is forcing companies to focus on what works.  Twitter can help drive the press and bloggers, bloggers help move the press and search engines, and search engines and the media move traffic.  But if you are looking for cash, Twitter won’t generate it immediately, but if you can use it to manipulate the press and bloggers, two gateways of traffic and ability to influence search engines, you can market in the 21st century.

From a business point of view, the Virtual Worlds still mint money, the online purveyors of walled gardens of information like Facebook, and the mass disseminators of information like Twitter can’t make a dime.

Social Media – New Walled Gardens

In the early days of the Internet, the term Walled Garden was used to refer to private content areas, and the debate as to which content should be private and which should be public.  In those early days, Walled Gardens were seen as an differentiator… one might pay more for AOL than the local ISP if the unique content was of value, which led to the acquisitions of Compuserve and Time Warner.  The search driven Internet pushed Walled Gardens out, and free content in, and that has dominated for years…

But now, Facebook establishes a walled garden, with huge amounts of content only available to members, but interestingly, it’s all user generated.  Who would have thought that the users would support hidden content, but that is Facebook’s appeal.  I see what my friends are up to, they see what I am up to.  The fact that the content is only available inside of Facebook seems incidental, since my family photos are now private.

I see news articles posted by friends, and we openly comment on them, in a way, it’s like a miniature blog, only the content isn’t available to the outside web.  You need a Facebook account, and to by my friend to see it.

In technology, everything moves in trends.  The mainframe centralized computer system and the client server model of the 3270 Terminal (with a smart GUI viewer), moved to the minicomputer and the dumb terminal, we then moved to PCs with the power back at the terminal, to a network centric model (both the Winterm push in corporate environments, and browser-as-computer in the public one), to smart applications that talk via APIs back to the web-based systems.  Is there really that much of a difference between an iPhone application that connects back to a web service as a 3270 Data Entry screen that draws the interface locally and sends the data up the serial line?