There’s been a lot of blog buzz about what Facebook’s “Like” button is doing to the web. A good deal of people have even been predicting the beginning of the semantic web. I’m not going that far yet, but Facebook’s attempt to ”Build[…] a web where the default is social” is a pretty lofty aim. They’ve already had a ton of success getting 3rd party websites onboard with their like button, and they seem poised to step in as the default “identity platform” for the web. One sign-on, one profile, all through Facebook.
All roads lead to Rome?
This is great news for Facebook if they pull it off. Unfortunately, the web as a whole isn’t going to come along quietly on this one. All traffic coming from and going to one source? Information is too pervasive, and the web is too democratic. Websites will put up the “like” button to enjoy the nice flow of traffic, but it will be a long time before Facebook convinces everybody to suck off their teat for all of their traffic.
In the meantime, Google has a major opportunity. The strength of Google is in their tendrils across the web. Facebook is a Juggernaut that is starting it’s advance across the web, but Google is already there, and needs to dig in deep to defend its claim. The “Like” button requires a lot of content providers to buy into Facebook’s Open Graph. Although sites are signing up in droves, it will be a long time before it reaches critical mass. Not everybody wants to commit allegiance to Facebook, and not everybody wants to be a part of the “social web.” Google has the tool to beat Facebook to the punch in Chrome.
A truly open graph
Imagine a “Like” button on Google Chrome. Simple, pervasive, and works on every site. The difference is that it would work with any sharing platform. Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, your blog, whatever. Facebook can build it’s Open Graph with Facebook in the center, but Google has the capability to build a social graph of the entire web, without Facebook’s geocentric skew. It’s wildly simple, but incredibly powerful. Google can get into the graph game strongly by supporting every platform out there. They can stay on the cutting edge of distribution channels, and can keep weaning people into the Google fold.
Google isn’t about search. Google is about distilling large amounts of information into a positive user experience. Having access to an web-wide social graph empowers them to take the internet one step closer to semantic. To be honest, I would be amazed if anything I’ve talked about in this post isn’t already in the works at Google right now.