Interesting post by Sir Tim Berners-Lee about the developments of the Social Graph. He writes:
We are all interested in friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. There is a lot of blogging about the strain, and total frustration that, while you have a set of friends, the Web is providing you with separate documents about your friends. One in facebook, one on linkedin, one in livejournal, one on advogato, and so on. The frustration that, when you join a photo site or a movie site or a travel site, you name it, you have to tell it who your friends are all over again. The separate Web sites, separate documents, are in fact about the same thing — but the system doesn’t know it. There are cries from the heart (e.g The Open Social Web Bill of Rights) for my friendship, that relationship to another person, to transcend documents and sites. There is a “Social Network Portability” community. Its not the Social Network Sites that are interesting — it is the Social Network itself. The Social Graph. The way I am connected, not the way my Web pages are connected.
We can use the word Graph, now, to distinguish from Web.
He goes on and discusses the effects of thinking in terms of a Social Graph:
In the long term vision, thinking in terms of the graph rather than the web is critical to us making best use of the mobile web, the zoo of wildy differing devices which will give us access to the system. Then, when I book a flight it is the flight that interests me. Not the flight page on the travel site, or the flight page on the airline site, but the URI (issued by the airlines) of the flight itself. That’s what I will bookmark. And whichever device I use to look up the bookmark, phone or office wall, it will access a situation-appropriate view of an integration of everything I know about that flight from different sources. The task of booking and taking the flight will involve many interactions. And all throughout them, that task and the flight will be primary things in my awareness, the websites involved will be secondary things, and the network and the devices tertiary.
I’ll be thinking in the graph. My flights. My friends. Things in my life. My breakfast. What was that? Oh, yogourt, granola, nuts, and fresh fruit, since you ask.
Nicholas Carr in response asks himself whether or not Web 3 is the Social Graph. He rightfully wonders whether or not the user cares about this.
But while it’s true that technologists and theoreticians desire to abstract the graph from the sites – and see only the benefits of doing so – it’s not yet clear that that’s what ordinary users want or even care about. That’ll be the real test to whether the graph makes the leap from mathematician to mainstream – and it will also tell us whether a social network like Facebook has a chance to become a true platform or is fated to remain a mere site.
Sir Tim says a lot about technology (after all, he was the founding father of the World Wide Web), but I like his final observations about human behavior best. And while we can already predict this story will lead TechMeme, and the whole blogging world will be talking about Social Graphs from now on (the master has spoken), I am more worried about the language we are using to describe “next generation” services.
Let’s face it, the user doesn’t care about web 3.0 or social graphs. The user likes interaction, likes to meet friends, likes to share experiences. Right now there are entrepreneurs and existing platforms thinking about monetizing the value of web 3.0 (ehh I meant to say Social Graphs). Too bad. That is not what it is all about.
We need to think about user value, about user centric services. Forget about building social graphs, forget about social advertisement within those graphs. Think user centric, and design services that allow the user to do what he wants most, interact with his loved ones, friends, business, without being restrained or held back in some graph.
Monetizing user value instead of Social Graph value will lead to the most optimal use of the Social Graph for anyone in it. You may call that web 3.0 or the Social Graph. Not that the user really cares about it.