March 16, 2009

Facebook Drops the Walled Garden, Opens Up Possibility for Track

By Jesse Stay of Stay N' Alive (Twitter/FriendFeed)

Today, Facebook announced they are now making it possible for anyone to open up their status updates and more, to the world. This means that by going into your privacy settings on Facebook and selecting "everyone" on various profile options, Google can now index it, non-friends are able to see it, and it puts Facebook "face-to-face" in the "worldwide conversation" with Twitter. Yes, Facebook has just killed the walled garden.

Over the last few months, people have been flocking to Twitter due to its open nature, searchable interface, and ease of conversation. Up until today, Facebook has only enabled status updates, conversation, posts, and profile data to be available, at a very maximum, to a user's friends and networks. Very limited data about a user was exposed to the world, nor was it indexable by Google. Google mostly had the capability to index a user's name, friends, and that was about it. Now, status updates, profile data, friend lists, and more can be visible to the world at the user's discretion.

We also saw the beginning of this today with the implementation of this data via TweetDeck, the most popular Twitter client's, integration with Facebook. Now even more data will be available to applications such as TweetDeck.

The Advantage Over Twitter

Twitter has been known as a wide-open platform. One that by default, anyone can read and publish. Users, at option, can make their profile and status updates private like Facebook, but it's an all or nothing choice.

On Facebook, your data remains private by default, but users can opt, at will, to make just pieces of their profiles available to the world. It doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. Users have full control, and can feel more at ease with Facebook. Perhaps the only thing that would make this better would be making status updates open to the public by default - I expect (and hope) we'll see this soon.

Let's Bring Track to Facebook

Facebook has indicated they have integrated this into their native search now. However, the availability of these status updates publicly does allow any developer to write such a search interface, and access the data, almost real-time on Facebook's massive server infrastructure.

Summize has been acquired by Twitter, but perhaps we'll start seeing other search services start to index this data. Currently, it would seem that only Social Graph data is available via the API, but I fully expect a public timeline to be available in the near future for them to be successful at this.

Let's add to this Facebook's existing SMS interface and the ability to integrate Facebook into your mobile phone, perhaps we will see Track again, but this time through Facebook, and very soon.

Goodbye Walled Garden!

Today marks a significant move in the history of Facebook. Today they tore down the walled garden they were sorely criticized for in the past. Now any user, under their own control, can make their data available to the public.

Facebook has hinted already at removing the 5,000 friend limit. I think that, along with more open APIs (aka public timeline), and access to comments and likes via the API will make Twitter start wishing they accepted Facebook's offer for purchase a few months back. Facebook, again, has just changed the game.

Read more by Jesse Stay at Stay N' Alive.