Sunday, 25 September 2011

Web 3.0 and Facebook

Keen as I am on selling my company’s services to help other organizations make the best use of social media, I never thought that I would be focusing a blog on our old friend Facebook. And yet, this week’s announcements at the F8 developer conference seem to have taken Facebook out of the ‘me-too’ duel with Google plus and Twitter and, in a quantum leap, put it way ahead of the game. Bringing Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of a Semantic Web closer.

Facebook recently allowed us to separate our real friend from our ‘Facebook friends’ in a similar way to Google plus’s circles. Then they gave us the ‘Subscribe’ button, allowing us to filter what we read. We can subscribe to ‘all’ updates, ‘most’ updates, or ‘only important’ updates rather than get news of all the goings on of our friends. But then – like Twitter – you can subscribe to people you don’t even know, following their statuses and profile updates. Interesting, but, in many ways, underwhelming. Then they announced Timeline, which is a replacement for the current profile page. And then the big one – Open Graph.

Open Graph (a new class of app) will apparently enable Facebook users to share experiences in realtime. Users will be able to instantly share activities with their friends without being required to grant apps permission each time. The more business-oriented amongst you will realize that Facebook users will be sharing more data with friends, so with Graph Targeting the marketing people will be able to deliver specific marketing messages to the ideal target market.

But, apart from Mark Zuckerberg getting even more shedloads of money, this announcement moves us a step closer to the Semantic Web – or Web 3.0 as it’s sometimes called. Way back in 1999 Tim Berners-Lee said: “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analysing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy ,and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.”

The Semantic Web will, in many ways be computer driven rather than human driven, and will integrate information from many different sources. This is dependant on meta data being avilable – and in many ways, this is what will happen with Facebook’s new approach.

We can turn our Web pages into graph objects using the Open Graph protocol tags and the familiar Facebook Like button on those Web pages. The tags look like:

In addition to the Open Graph protocol’s four required properties:
  • og:title –t he title of the object as it should appear within the graph, eg a film title.
  • og:type – the type of your object, eg "movie".
  • og:image – an image URL, which should represent the object within the graph.
  • og:url – the canonical URL of tha object that will be used as its permanent ID in the graph, eg

Facebook has added:
  • fb:app_id – a Facebook Platform application ID that administers this page.

And recommends using: 

  • og:site_name – a human-readable name for your site.
  • og:description – a one to two sentence description of your page.

When a user ‘likes’ a Web page using a Like button, a News Feed story is published to Facebook.

Wikipedia suggests that: “There are some who claim that Web 3.0 will be more application-based and centre its efforts towards more graphically-capable environments .” This is what Facebook’s Open Graph appears to be.

It also seems that some companies, such as those providing music streaming services, video streaming services, and newspapers will be able to customize the ‘Like’ button to say ‘listen’, ‘watch’, or ‘read’, as appropriate. Then, once someone has shared the content using these new buttons, other Facebook users will be able to access the content within Facebook provided the content supplier has created a compatible Facebook app.

Mainframers probably already know that IMS has a page at, and CICS has a page at You might not know that the Virtual IMS user group has a page at, and the Virtual CICS user group has a page at

Interesting times for Facebook and definitely putting some distance between it and its nearest rivals – for a while.

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