Do You "Like" It? Pros and Cons of Facebook's Open Graph

by Leo Mikinberg

If you haven’t already heard the buzz, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the Facebook team have announced a new initiative that may change the way you interact with Facebook and the rest of the web. The new “Like” button is part of a larger project called Open Graph, which is an attempt to incorporate Facebook into every possible page on the internet. Once you’ve logged in to your Facebook account, you will be able to surf the web and see just how many of your fellow users and friends “like” the website and content you’re checking out. While this sounds harmless, this announcement has ruffled a lot of feathers because it brings with it further changes to the very sensitive, and often controversial Privacy Policy. To clear the air and give a better picture of what is in store for a new Open Graph world here are a few pros and cons of the changes. Cons:

1) Privacy Policy Goes Gray - The Privacy Policy on Facebook continues to fall into a gray area where the lines between private and public are constantly blurred. With the newest changes a lot of your information, including your name, names of all your friends, pictures, gender, likes, connections and shared content are, by default, visible to everyone.

2) You Choose Your Privacy Settings… If You Can Understand Them…Sort of -Facebook has always given its users the ability to limit who sees what on their profile. Over the years the options have gotten greater and the jargon has gotten much more confusing. Attempting to limit who can view your Facebook page is no longer a quick fix, but instead is a time consuming, head-scratching process that may leave you wondering what you just did or didn’t do. This becomes even trickier when you are trying to make your information more private. You may take the initiative to prevent people from being able to see that you are connected to Jane Doe, but she may have her settings on default; if that’s the case someone can still see that you two are connected through her Facebook page.

3) Now I Like It, Now I Don’t - With this new found ability to bounce around and “Like” every picture, article, and other piece of content on the internet, some of us who are known to get a little trigger happy may end up liking something that we either find we don’t really like or just don’t want the world to know we like. In the event that you did like something and want to unlike it, the process gets to become a bit of a nuisance. To remove the like you would have to head back to your Facebook profile, find your likes and interests to single out the individual object (which could at that point be one of hundreds) and remove it. If you are not a heavy user of the like button this may only be an inconvenience, but for those who are going to be liking regularly it may become more of an issue.

Pros:

1) Instant Personalization - No clever title needed here. Instant personalization, as Facebook has started to call it, is the best example of what is possible through Open Graph. A handful of websites like Yelp, Microsoft Documents and Pandora are going to be able to connect to your likes and interests so they are better able to customize the services they provide. Pandora can be able to better serve you by knowing what music you already like and are listening to, while Yelp can use your location to bring you more accurate responses. Social Commerce Today gives us a better look at what these three sites are doing with Instant Personalization here. While we may not see too many websites with the resources or the know-how to create this level of Facebook integration in the near future, it is a small window into what a social web can look like.

2) Go Straight to the Good Stuff - Even the best bloggers or newspaper columnists have their bad days. With the new “Like” feature, you will soon be able to see just how many other Facebook users and friends think that an article is worth reading. The same goes with almost any piece of content out there for the public to consume. Assuming you trust your friends’ judgment, you can skip over the stuff that isn’t “fit to print” and go straight for what is.

3) The Early Bird Catches the Worm - The businesses that are moving quickly and taking decisive steps to make sure that they are using the new “Like” feature to the best of their ability are already starting to show strong gains. While IGN is in no way new to cyberspace, it has shown a 20% increase in referral traffic from Facebook since it has begun incorporating the "like" button. This is of particular importance because many businesses that find themselves with active pages on Facebook may be surprised with the impact that implementing the new button will have on the traffic going to their respective websites. This feature is going to be beneficial for those surfing the web as well as the people who are creating the content.

Now that you’ve seen a few of the pros and cons, what’s your take on Facebook’s “Like” button and its Open Graph?