The Graph Wars Begin: Battle the first – Open Social Graph*s* <– note the plural!
I’m preparring to do everything I can to get my friends and family on Google+ – Why? Mostly because I hate facebook. But why do I hate facebook? Well it could be that ‘the Zuck’ has finally riden is ego obsessed privacy violating hubris to the top of the wheel of fire and has a long way to fall; or, because my social graph on facebook is getting stale. Sadly the former is not enough motivation to get me to move but the latter is. Sociologically, humans are intended to have multiple social graphs.
My hope is that with the coming of Google+ alongside Twitter and Bookface, humans will start to realise that having only one company own your social graph is ludicrous (the physical equivalent of: only being able to go to one pub and meet people at the pub who are already on a preapproved list of people also allowed at that pub). Just like the physical world, so are we continually renewing or social graphs in the virtual world; and the ability to combine and join these graphs at their vertices is what makes carrying around these heavy social brains so valuable.
Ironically we are just starting to see the beginning of what I am going to call the “Graph Wars”, that is to say, the social graph is just the first of many battles to come where companies will collect a graph of data be that a list of a certain circles of friends, a list of the products we buy, a list of the places we visit, a list of the things we read, a list of foobar, etc. … all of these “lists” combined with the power of the Web have the capability to become “graphs”.
A ‘graph’ is therefore a more powerful ‘list’, in that we can share the graph because we have links to each of the entities on the list. Yes it is the all powerful ‘link’ that resides at the heart of ‘the graph’. In short, if we have an common identifier for talking about something we can leverage the power of adding meaning to that identifiers, and when you take this “voting” capability across the scale of the Web you get a graph.
But we still need to learn about these ‘graphs’ as a global community. The Web presents us with the first worldwide learning opportunity. The first opportunity being our understand of what a ‘social graph’ is. And indeed we are indebted to Bookface for realising a worldwide understanding for a shared definition of what a single “social graph” can look like (though it should be noted that the likes of Friendster, Bebo and MySpace were the original ‘social graphs’), none the less Bookface was the first to realise it on a truly global learnability scale.
The difference is now, that we must move beyond the single social graph that is Bookface and more on to a pluralistic environment where humans on a global scale begin to learn about multiple social graphs and (most importantly) how those graphs can be combined and joined to leverage new social emergence.
Google+ offers us this chance to start globally understanding the plurality of social graphs, not just because of their ability to group multiple social graphs with the Google+ platform, but because humans will naturally start to ask questions about how they use the different social graph platforms in coordination with one another. This is typified by the maxim: “twitter is where I store the people I used to know, where twitter is where I collect the people I hope to know better”… naturally this extends us to all ask the question, what kind of social graph will Google+ offer and more importantly how we might begin to leverage multiple social graphs for new ideas and enterprises.
But isn’t this a case of getting out of the Bookface frying pan only to burn in the Google+ fire? – Well, yes it could be. I don’t believe Google’s “do no evil” motto any more than you do. However, there is one small hope in the form the Google Data Liberation department, which actually does try and do good. If we can convince this group of libertarians to enable a truly open social graph API we will begin to see a new world of social graph combination. And naturally if Google+ opens up its social graph so Twitter and Bookface will have to as well and then we will have won the battle, but not the War.
There are many more graphs to create and lock down for making money and there are many more graph battles to fight. The ultimate battle and War will only be won, once we as a global learning hive mind agree that graphs are as much a human right as freedom. Let the battles begin 🙂