Facebook changes: the next generation of apps

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F8 Facebook Lifestyle AppsI thought Facebook had lost its firepower. I was really starting to feel that it was losing momentum and that Google+ had a chance of stealing serious numbers of users away. Yesterday, Facebook proved me wrong.

Much of the media appears to have focused on the media sharing and timeline changes. These are cool but the open graph changes and the new social object presentation surfaces that the timeline enables have even more potential to fundamentally shift the social media landscape.

The new apps and APIs enable us to define any of the socially interesting activities that people can do within our web site, mobile application or Facebook application. These are the activities that people use to express who they are, what they enjoy doing and what interests them. Mountain bikers want to record trails. Kitchen ninjas want to share recipes and the meals they cook. Fashionistas want to share the latest looks that they’ve spotted out on the streets. Programmers want to share the latest releases of their Github social coding projects.

It’s no longer a case of just liking something. It’s about filling in each of the placeholders in the sentence “Person <verb> an <object>“. Using the new apps we can define each of the verbs and objects that we want to socially enable. When a user does one of these activities, we can add it to their timeline. Using the new aggregation features, we can attractively present these activities back to the user and anyone viewing their timeline. We can show how they make the person who did them who they are and make it easy for friends to discover and explore shared interests and passions.

Facebook now enables us to define rich social objects within the graph. We’re not limited to books, movies, music, articles and such like. We can now create, interact with and present pretty much anything we like.  The new APIs allow us to define any number of custom properties against an object, from simple stuff like strings to more complex properties like geographic location and altitude. This enables us to move, or at least mirror, richer real world objects and elements of content in the graph in much more engaging and interesting ways.

Apps will now get their own PageRank (called, er… GraphRank) that will determine the prominence of their output on timelines. Only the popular apps will get the prominence to acquire new users through friend discovery. It’s going to be aggressive app natural selection. I think it changes the dynamic from flash-in-the-pan campaign applications to apps with more longevity that really help people to express themselves via their timeline. Companies need to think more than ever about the user experience and services that the user gets from the application itself and the social actions and objects that it creates and presents within Facebook. When both are just right the results will be incredible.

Building on Matt’s excellent article on what Facebook’s changes mean for brands and marketers, we’ll be looking at case studies of what will become possible for brands in the context of this new breed of lifestyle apps.

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