Facebook has created a platform that allows sites and apps to share information about users in order to tailor offers, features and services to each one’s interests and tastes — even if that individual has never visited the site before.
When you’re signed on to Facebook, participating websites like CNN.com will display information, goods and services tailored specifically to your interests — without requiring you to sign in at that website or provide it with any information.
Speaking at the F8 Developer Conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and former FriendFeed () CEO Bret Taylor, who is now Facebook’s director of product, named three new features that will make this possible and easy to implement.
Zuckerberg and Taylor described a concept called “Open Graph” that will be useful to businesses and services. On Facebook, users are connected to people they know, as well as public figures, services and products they like; Facebook’s new platform will allow websites and apps to share this information with each other.
When you connect to sites like Yelp () via your Facebook profile, Yelp will have access to any information you’ve made publicly available about your favorite foods or favorite bands, and will be able to take that into account when giving you information about restaurants or music venues. For example, Yelp could pull information about your favorite music from data that Pandora () added to the graph when you favorited a song on its site.
This is essentially a replacement for Facebook Connect that makes it easier to share information. However, unlike Facebook Connect, Open Graph participants will be able to store user data for more than 24 hours.
It’s not just about data behind the scenes; Facebook has developed plugins that websites and apps can implement to make it easy for users to see information from or about their Facebook friends, share things with their friends without leaving a site or going through a time-consuming login process.
One example is the new “Like” button on each website, which we’ve heard about before. You can Like an article on CNN.com to share it with your Facebook friends. The button will also show you which of your friends, if any, have already Liked it.
Some websites will show customized versions of your Facebook news feed that shows activity pertinent only to those sites. So if Yelp implements this feature, you might see a news feed only when your friends review venues.
There will also be a Facebook toolbar for websites that will let you show all sorts of Facebook features on your website, including chat.
Of course, none of this would be worth it if it was a pain for developers to implement. Facebook’s new Graph API is relatively simple. You only need to drop one line of HTML into your website to include one of the social plugins, for example.
The Graph API will allow developers to search Facebook for information on users and objects. User data will be stored at easy-to-access URLs like http://graph.facebook.com/samuelaxon/music.
Hawkish Facebook users will be posting their concerns about privacy in their news feeds as soon as they hear about these features. Facebook is making it easier for companies to access their personal data, though Zuckerberg implied that only the data users makes public in their privacy settings will be shared.
On one hand, having your web experience customized to your tastes, interests and relationships is appealing. On the other, it’s going to be hard to keep track of all of the personal data you’ll be publishing to the graph for all to see — and there might be some opportunities for abuse by less scrupulous companies.
Are you excited about how these changes could make your Internet () experience easier and more social, or are you too concerned about your privacy to be thrilled about the advantages?