The Social Graph

When you first heard the term "Web 2.0", was it a bit of a mystery to you? Did you feel like you must have been asleep when everyone else got told about it? Don't let it happen again!

"Social Graph" is a concept that will be more important than "Web 2.0" ever was, so now is the time to familiarise yourself with the exciting ideas that are coming together under this umbrella term.

Readwriteweb.com has a great summary here:
1. The Internet: links computers

2. Web: links documents

3. Graph: links relationships between people and documents -- "the things documents are about" as Berners-Lee put it.

The original article from Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) pulls together other key posts on this idea, and with tongue in cheek refers to the Giant Global Graph!

The Social Graph will liberate the information you have stored in sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo from the confines of these particular web applications and give it back to you, to do whatever you want with it. Found a new social software site that has cool features? Great - just hook it into your personal neighbourhood of the social graph, and it will immediately know who all your friends are. No need to go looking for them. The data belongs to you.

OpenID will be a key component of the Social Graph. OpenID provides a categorical declaration of your online identity, and it is these identities which will form the nodes of the graph, with edges being relationships.

This excellent clip uses graphs of relationships to illustrate social networks:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a_KF7TYKVc[/youtube]

What is missing from this explanation is the fact that you have completely separate graphs in each of the social networking sites that you use. The Social Graph will exist independently of any particular site, and the sites will draw upon it to find out about your relationships.

"Why bother" I hear you ask, "if I use Facebook and so do all my mates?" One reason is that innovation is being stifled by the fact that you are stuck in Facebook. What if an infinitely better social networking site comes along? You will be unlikely to use it , because Facebook holds your graph of relationships. Once The Social Graph is implemented, you will be able to use whatever combination of social networking sites you wish, with your choices being made entirely on the basis of their value. Innovation will explode. Exciting times :)

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