April 2010 – Stay N Alive

Facebook and the New SEO

With the advent of Facebook’s new Open Graph Protocol announced at their developers conference last week, there has been no shortage of criticism as to what’s private, what’s open, and if this makes Facebook even more open and more closed.  While I’ve certainly made my opinion known, there is really little that needs to be said from a brand perspective.  It’s quite obvious that Facebook is now a force to be reckoned with, and businesses, brand managers, and so-called “social media experts” should start paying attention.  Perhaps the group that should be paying most attention though are those that currently pay attention to SEO for their company, or the brands they represent.  With Facebook’s entry into the search space last week, Facebook should now be part of every company’s SEO plan.

Just last week, Mark Zuckerberg was quite clear when he said, announcing Facebook’s new Open Graph Protocol, that Facebook was working to make “people index the web”.  No longer are the days of complex algorithms, PhDs focusing on the fastest and most relevant search results through code.  What better way to provide relevant content and experience for what people are looking for, and often even when they don’t even know they need it, than through their friends’ activity on Social Networks.  Search is now all about relevancy.

I find it ironic that before Google, Sergei Brin’s focus at Stanford was actually a relevancy engine surrounding movies your friends watched.  His project centered around looking at how your friends rated movies and then provided suggestions based on the movies your friends like.  He quickly scrapped that when the idea behind Google came along.  Now, as the tides turn, Mark Zuckerberg took that entire focus of friends’ activity and suggestions, and is building the entire web around it, and just now he’s coming back to focus search around it.

What does Open Graph Protocol have to do with all this?  Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol is just a series of meta tags that enables Facebook, when specific Social Plugins are installed on a site (or the site is registered through Facebook Insights), to begin tracking that website.  Each website can provide very specific information about itself, and how it relates to the Facebook (or other) networks.  If you view the source of this blog you’ll notice I even get so specific as to identifying what my phone number is and what e-mail address you can contact me with.  All this information gets registered with Facebook.

Now, when you search in Facebook for “Stay”, this blog should show up in those search results, taking you right back to this blog, and providing you relevant results based on the usage and likes of yourself and your friends, something much more powerful than just an anonymous link network.  Each and every website on the internet has this opportunity to now appear in the Facebook search results, and with little effort, intercept itself between the friends of its viewers so they can easily share it with others.  That’s a very powerful concept, and so far in just the last week, over 50,000 websites are already taking advantage of this!

SEO is something that is now a standard part of any businesses web budget.  It’s simple – you build common strategies for formulating your content to appear properly in Google and others’ search results.  You try to guess the keywords you want your website to appear high under, and adapt the content of your site to make finding it in search engine results much easier.  Now, you’re going to need to do the same with Facebook.  Each SEO manager within a company should seriously be considering adding the proper Open Graph Protocol meta tags in their site, and, by doing so, they will now appear in Facebook’s search results as well.

Facebook has made it clear that this is a search game.  The release of Open Graph Protocol makes this clearer, and you should be paying attention.  Through your likes, Facebook now has the potential to provide near exact matches of advertising towards exactly what you’re looking for, without you even knowing you needed it.  That, my friends, is the holy grail of advertising.

Now, take those ads and spread them across the web, just like adwords/adsense.  Give website owners a cut for sharing them on their site.  You now have near perfect contextual advertising across every website on the web, Facebook becomes even bigger as they make more money from those ads, and the web becomes a better place by providing an experience you, the user, actually want to receive.  The brands advertising make more money, as does Facebook, because ads aren’t being wasted on people that do not want to receive them.

Facebook just did something huge last week.  It is now in the interest of every single company out there to be getting their brand visible in the Facebook search so this can happen.  This is a search game more than it is social.  Facebook just made it a whole heck of a lot more valuable for you to be investing in SEO, but this time it’s on Facebook’s terms, not Google’s, and in the end everyone wins.  Well, except maybe Google.  If Facebook isn’t currently a part of your company’s SEO strategy it’s time to start re-thinking what SEO means to you and your company.  Like it or not, Facebook is the new SEO.

Google: You Have the Same Thing as Facebook – Why Not Promote It?

Google is sitting on a gold mine opportunity right now and all I hear is complaining from their employees.  Matt Cutts Deactivated his Facebook account and Tweeted about it to tell the story.  Chris Messina called Facebook the dreaded “evil” word, and criticized the idea for being decentralized.  Frankly, I’m getting tired of it and it’s making Google look desperate.  Instead, here’s what I’d rather see Google doing:

Promote the Heck Out of Google Social Graph API

I don’t get it – Google employees are criticizing Facebook for not being decentralized when Facebook did just that.  With the OpenGraph Protocol, any platform on the web can now implement a similar Pages network and integrate with the network of Pages Facebook is bringing into its own network. The opportunity is open to all, not just Facebook.  Facebook even went to the extent of releasing that protocol under the Open Web Foundation agreement, solidifying that they were okay with others copying it.

Google has been promoting something similar – XFN links and FOAF attachments (along with “me” relationship identifiers to identify an individual as the same person across the web).  In fact, Google built an API around it so others can have access to these protocols.  Guess what?  Facebook has an API as well for the OpenGraph protocol (called, quite similar “Graph API”).  Has Google opened up their Social Graph API? No. (meaning, not any other network can copy the protocol of the API and use it as their platform as well)  Neither has Facebook.  There’s nothing wrong with that – they have to compete.

Google has a huge opportunity right now to be riding the coattails of Facebook on this announcement by promoting its SocialGraph API and how it’s a little better for the web than what Facebook is doing with its API around the OpenGraph.  Rather than complain about what Facebook is doing, why not take the positive route and push that you have something better?  Google has an incredible opportunity here to finally make the SocialGraph API really big, and they’re squashing it by spending their energy canceling their Facebook accounts and criticizing their efforts publicly.  I think it’s totally the wrong move for Google to be making right now.  Their PR department needs to get ahold of their employees and formulate a strategy for response.

Promote the Heck Out of Google Friend Connect

On top of the APIs and OpenGraph or SocialGraph related protocols (again, emphasis on the protocol being the open part of both networks – none of the other stuff, on both Google and Facebook’s side is), all that was launched by Facebook on Wednesday was a series of Widgets that lie on top of all this to make implementation of everything very easy.  Google has the same thing, yet I have not heard one peep from Google employees about it since then.

Google’s product is called Friend Connect.  Look at the Friend Connect page of widgets here and then look at the OpenGraph Social Plugins page here and tell me how they differ?  The main difference is Google actually has more widgets than Facebook does.  Kevin Marks, former Google employee who initiated OpenSocial and the Friend Connect program at Google, was quick to point out to me on Twitter that even Friend Connect has a like button (you can see it on his iPad Knees Up site in the upper-right here), and it requires a Google login to use!  How is that any different than what Facebook is offering?  You can see an example of Friend Connect in action over to the right where you see everyone’s profile pictures (note you didn’t even have to log in to see those, and there is no opt-out).

This is Google’s time to shine – show businesses that they can promote Twitter users and iGoogle users and Buzz users and Orkut users, and provide all the same functionality Facebook is providing, just as easy as they are (with the exception of that extremely simple Graph API Facebook just launched).  Come up with new features that compete where you’re not at their level yet.  The world doesn’t know about this yet.  Google has more people using its network than Facebook does – Google needs to flaunt this, not complain.

Start Building on Facebook’s OpenGraph API and Stop Complaining

I’m sure I’ll get plenty of complaining responses by Google employees and former Google employees from this, but, I really hope they take this to heart and rather than argue with me on this, just go out and promote the products that they have.  They potentially have something even bigger than what Facebook has, and it’s extremely important that the world knows about this.

Google really should consider taking advantage of this new protocol by Facebook – integrate it on its own sites, just as it expects Facebook to do with FOAF and XFN.  Find ways to search and index this data in ways that Facebook just doesn’t have the advantage.  They should find ways to integrate Facebook login (it’s just OAuth 2.0 now!) into their Friend Connect login process – Facebook’s being completely open in this.

I’ve been arguing on Twitter with Kevin Marks about Google’s past attempts to integrate Facebook Connect into Friend Connect.  They were denied, because they were displaying user data without user permission before.  He referred to this page in the Terms of Use for Facebook.  The thing is, Facebook has provided means around this problem.  Facebook is all about user privacy, even down to the developers that integrate their platform.  Google got shut down because they weren’t using the means Facebook set out to use their data.  There is a specific permissions API Facebook released within a month after Google launched Facebook support in Friend Connect (and got shut down), just to solve Google’s problem and Google never used it.

It’s time Google start accepting these Facebook social graphs.  Let us bring our Facebook friends into Google’s network – there’s not even a storage limit any more!  Google needs to start playing nice or they’re going to get left in the dust.  It’s time to stop complaining and take the ball back into your own court, Google.  Otherwise I’m going to have no choice but to abandon Google products and go where my real friends are playing.  That’s not a threat – it’s just the reality of where I’m being forced to go.

Facebook Launches OpenGraphProtocol.org: Adds Second Product to the OWFa

Just two years ago at OSCON, Facebook, Google, Myspace, and others all joined forces to create the Open Web Foundation, a sort of GPL-like agreement for platform builders to have a common agreement users could understand.  Facebook announced their first support of the OWF agreement in November of 2009 with the launch of the OAuth WRAP protocol, an experimental protocol intended to lead to a more open authentication and authorization platform for Facebook.  Today, with the launch of a new, non-Facebook centric protocol page for OpenGraphProtocol.org, Facebook announced their second entry under the Open Web Foundation Agreement.  According to Tantek Celik, and confirmed by Facebook’s David Recordon on the OWF mailing list, ‘Facebook’s “The Open Graph Protocol” is the most recent user/adopter of the OWFa’.

What does this mean? Basically, it means that the new Open Graph Protocol announced by Facebook yesterday is under a completely open license agreement that other platform creators can adopt, use, and freely distribute without worry of patent.  As I said, in many ways it is similar to the GPL, in that platforms created under this agreement are intended to be re-used and distributed across the web, keeping the license in tact.

The Open Graph Protocol defines specific meta tags which sites can integrate to identify themselves as a “Page” on Facebook’s social graph.  Doing so, and identifying it with Facebook, enables that Page to receive likes, activity updates, and more via Facebook users and “Social Widgets” they can incorporate from Facebook on the site.  I’m still unclear how this benefits anyone but Facebook.

While Facebook’s internal APIs still appear to remain proprietary, it’s good to see Facebook starting to open up.  The good thing about this protocol is anyone can mimick it or duplicate its functionality for their own purposes.  This is something, other than OAuth WRAP, which Facebook just hasn’t had up until this point.  Let’s hope this trend continues.

"Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You"

I’ve said numerous times that when you put something on the web, you should always assume that data is public, for the world to see. Up until now, Facebook was the exception – Facebook enabled privacy controls, enabling users to, while assuming their data could be public, add a layer of protection and assurance to that data since it would be stored in a silo’d environment. All that changed, in an incredibly significant way yesterday. At Facebook’s F8 developers conference, they announced a new way of integrating with the Facebook network, which would basically incorporate websites that choose to do so to become an instant part of the Facebook network. Now, not only will your Facebook profile follow you as you visit Facebook.com, but your Facebook profile will follow you from website to website, following you and bringing your friends with you throughout the entire internet. Facebook essentially just became the new Internet, which means my rules above now apply to Facebook as much as any website out there.

What you need to watch out for

Before it is assumed that I’m spreading a bunch of FUD, I want to be clear that the same privacy rules apply to the websites you visit as do on Facebook.com.  You might have noticed a new message as you log in asking you to opt out if you don’t want your information shared with these websites.  If you really have a concern you will want to look at these settings and change them.  However, even if you keep the information on, there are still requirements that will force website owners to get you to log in to Facebook before they obtain information such as your friend data or other more private information.  There is still some control.

What you do need to watch out for however is that what you put into Facebook.com could very well become a part of any participating website out there.  The same rules for the web now apply to Facebook.  If you don’t want others to know about it, don’t share it on Facebook!  I believe Facebook is anticipating that the world is becoming a much more open and forgiving place though – personally, I agree.  I call this the “small community effect”.  Basically, in a small community everyone knows who you are.  You all know each others strengths and weaknesses, and you’re able to help each other out because of that.  You’re able to talk, and everyone hears.  If you want out, just leave the community!

Here’s an example: I have many friends on Facebook that work for Facebook, Inc. and Twitter, Inc.  I do see private information all the time that isn’t meant for public consumption.  However, the minute I share that information to those it was not intended for I break that trust relationship with my friends, and all they need to do is unfriend me.  Now I no longer have a trusted relationship and my ties (and friendships) are broken.  When you have a small community there is a responsibility to trust one another, and it’s a much stronger bond than an anonymous internet.

Why This is a Good Thing

The internet just became a whole lot less anonymous than before.  It sounds scary, but it really isn’t.  When you are forced to identify yourself (and these identities will become more and more real as technology surrounding identity advances), you are forced to be real.  You won’t do things you would normally do when people didin’t know your name.  In a less anonymous internet it’s the anonymous people you have to worry about, and they are the ones that get forced to wear the Scarlet Letters when they are discovered.

Here’s the real advantage: now, rather than searching and hoping to find the right answers to your questions, answers will be delivered to you without you even having to ask.  You’ll be visiting your favorite brand’s website, and you’ll be able to see exactly what your friends that use that brand also like.  You’ll be pointed to other important and interesting things.  You could be watching TV and see what show all your friends are watching – often that can be much more interesting than having to just randomly pick what you aren’t quite sure would be good.  Not only that, but you have the opportunity to chat, communicate, and collaborate about these things that you like.

Facebook is encouraging us to be Social!  I think it’s time we all break out of our shells and take these real life relationships around the world and do something with them.  I’m okay with giving up a little information for that cause.  In the end social networking is about building real life relationships.  What a better way than to do that all over the web, wherever you go?

I’m going to spend some time over the next few days going over the details of Facebook’s new OpenGraph, what it is, and how it works (in a way you can understand).  I’d also like to compare it to Google’s SocialGraph API, a very similar API to what Facebook is doing.  I’d like to cover where the prior arts are, where Facebook could have done better (as in distribution and a less centralized architecture), and why I think they went the way they did.

In the end I think it’s okay to be at peace with this.  Everyone I’ve spoken to at Facebook intends to be good with this information.  Their entire purpose is to respect your privacy, while making the web a whole lot less anonymous and a whole lot more social.  So get on and be social!  Get on and share some things.  That’s a good thing!

The Butterflies are "All Around Us" – My Interview With Paul Buchheit, CoFounder of FriendFeed

I had the opportunity to spend a brief few minutes with Paul Buchheit, co-creator of FriendFeed.com, which was recently acquired by Facebook end of last year.  In our interview, I asked Paul where “the Butterfly” was that was mentioned by him shortly after the acquisition (you can read more about that here).  Paul seemed much more enthusiastic than Bret Taylor was when I asked him in the Press Conference earlier in the day.  In short: the butterfly is not one, but multiple butterflies that permeate both FriendFeed and the Facebook Platform, and will continue to grow.

In conversation after the interview, Paul mentioned while not as much resources were put into FriendFeed as before, he was still releasing updates and continuing to do so.  He even hinted at the potential for better Facebook integration now that the 24 hour storage limit has been lifted from the Facebook Platform. (He mentioned that was the biggest impact on them not integrating Facebook Connect more, and as a developer, I agree)  Paul reminded me that they’re still releasing features (the most recent being just a few weeks ago), and their move to the new Facebook-hosted servers which they’re currently hosted on.

When asked which developer platform to develop for, Paul’s answer was to look at your needs.  Facebook Platform of course has over 400+ million users, while with FriendFeed you may get some added aggregation capabilities you wouldn’t get from Facebook.  You could tell by his voice that he still has a deep love for FriendFeed, and seemed to have no intentions to abandon it.  In fact, his entire presentation (you can watch here – click on “previous sessions” on the right) was around the Tornado Framework which FriendFeed is based on, something Facebook doesn’t really have intention on integrating into their own environment.

So, it would appear, that the butterflies he mentioned earlier are none other than the Open Graph API, the move from centralized data silos, to an entire web of meta-linked data which is unreliant on any one source to get at the data.  The butterfly that has emerged has transformed into many, which anyone, anywhere on the web can gain access.

The full interview can be found on my Cinch page – you can listen to it below:


Facebook Kills the Storage Limit

Today at Facebook’s F8 developer’s conference Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be adapting their policy surrounding the length of time developers can store data taken from the Facebook API on their own servers.  Very soon, the infamous, “store for only 24 hours” limit will no longer be, as developers will be able to store data indefinitely.

Previously, developers were only allowed to store data taken from the Facebook API for 24 hours at a time.  The only data that could be stored longer than this were specific user, photo, event, and other similar IDs, from which developers were required to make API calls back to Facebook to receive data about those objects.  This was a common complaint amongst developers (including myself), causing bandwidth costs and much more effort on the part of a developer (and lack ability to be innovative with that data).

It’s great to hear Facebook opening up on this front.  Stay tuned and I’ll be updating this blog as more news unfolds.

I’m a Dummy! My Next, and Third Book

It’s been 2 years since the release of my second book, FBML Essentials, and everyone keeps asking me when I’m going to write my next.  I admit I’m a little addicted – it’s why I write on this blog.  I hated writing for others in High School and College, but since I started writing for myself I have really gained a sincere appreciation for writing.  Once I wrote my first book, I’m on Facebook–Now What??? with Jason Alba, I was addicted.  I love writing!  That’s why I’m proud to announce that I have signed an agreement with Wiley to write Facebook Application Development For Dummies.

What will it be about?  To tell you the truth, I’m still working that out.  My thought is to keep this one extremely simple.  I want it to be so simple even marketers and brand managers can learn at least a few ways to integrate Facebook Connect on their own websites, or find ways to integrate their brand straight into Facebook.  I’d like to hear from you though – what would you like to learn about Facebook Application Development?  What would you like to learn about the Facebook Platform?

I’m honored to be working with Wiley in this effort.  They are my biggest publisher yet, and from my dealings with them thus far they are going to be a joy to work with.  My wife has agreed to not see me for the next 6-9 months (I love you honey!), and I’m still keeping my day job and running SocialToo.  Yes, I’m crazy.  I think in the end though, based on my interactions with each of you, we need a completely simple instruction on how to get started with the Facebook Platform and what it means for developers and brands.  My hope is that with the time I spend on this book I might be able to benefit each of you in getting started with this incredible platform.

Facebook Application Development For Dummies will go to print some time at the end of this year, and, having learned from my last 2 books, you can bet this book will be very up to date and will have ways of remaining up to date long from its publish date.  Tell me what you want it to include!

I’ll be at Facebook’s F8 developers conference tomorrow (I’ll be one of the only guys with a FriendFeed T-Shirt on) – come look for me!  The first 4 people to mention this post to me at the conference get a free, signed copy of FBML Essentials.

In the meantime, be sure to become a fan of FBML Essentials and I’m on Facebook–Now What??? on Facebook, subscribe to this blog, and I’ll be sure you get updated when we have a home for my new book.

Facebook to Launch SideWiki-like Recommendation System for Websites

On Saturday I broke news of a few specific XFBML tags Facebook will be releasing as part of its OpenGraph API, as revealed by their open source Javascript Client libraries.  I held back one announcement that I think is almost just as interesting as their Insights for websites, or the SocialBar, which will provide Meebo-like functionality for Facebook on any website (I think it’s no coincidence Meebo, Google, and Yahoo announced XAuth shortly after I wrote that post).  Facebook, in conjunction with F8, is getting ready to launch “fb:recommendations”, a tag which enables users to provide recommendations to other Facebook users on any OpenGraph-enabled website.

Currently in Facebook’s open source Javascript client libraries, the tag can be placed on any website, and, according to the check in for the code on Github, something like this:

“should be replaced by an iframe showing recommendations for the abc website.”  Rendering the code currently just displays an iframe with the Facebook.com website in the frame.  I am assuming when they turn it on to the world that will render something completely different.

If my theories (and a few sources close to Facebook) are correct, Facebook will soon be releasing the ability for any Facebook user to provide recommendations and advice on any website that integrates the recommendations widget.  Think Google Sidewiki, but at the discretion of each website.  The functionality I am guessing will work similar to that of Foursquare’s “Tips” feature.

What makes this feature even more interesting is what this could bring if some of the rumors of GeoLocation being launched are true.  Is this just a sidewiki feature, or could Facebook be getting ready to launch a Geolocation feature, enabling “Recommendations” that go beyond just websites into real-life locations and places?

Be sure to read more about FBML, including a very beginner lesson on XFBML, in my book, FBML Essentials.


It has been probably 20 years since I last visited Hawaii.  On April 29 through May 1 I’ll be joining my Hawaiian friends at Next Level Hawaii in a weekend of Social Media goodness, and the best of strategies surrounding Social Technology.  My friends, Aaron Brazell (@technosailor), Micah Baldwin (@micah), and Chris Pirillo (@chrispirillo) will also be speaking.  I’m also excited to meet Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving), a well known D.C.-based blogger and PR Guru.

I was around 10 or 11 years old the last (and first) time I visited Hawaii.  My Dad grew up there, and my memories are still very fond of the area, based on my own experiences and my Dad’s stories from when he was a child in Hawaii (my Grandfather helped with the movie, Johnny Lingo, for those familiar with it).  I will always remember how welcoming the people were, even from just those memories of when I visited as a child.  That’s why I jumped on the opportunity to speak when invited.  I can’t wait to visit again and meet many of my Hawaiian readers and followers, as well as some of you I have met at conferences on the mainland USA.

My talk will have the title, “From Fishers to Farmers: Using Social Technologies on your own website to Engage, Build Traffic, and Spread Word about your Brand or Product”, and I hope to explain some of the benefits of technologies such as Facebook Connect and Twitter’s @Anywhere, as well as Google’s Friend Connect, when building a brand website.  I can’t wait to meet each of you and share this topic near and dear to my heart.  I’ll have another announcement on this blog very shortly surrounding this exact subject.

So if you’re in or around Honolulu, or you just want an excuse to get away (I hear it’s beautiful this time of year), please register here and come see me!  If you see me at the conference, please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and say hi.