Facebook’s f8 2011 Keynote: What it Means for Developers and Marketers

Note: I was live at Facebook’s f8 developer conference yesterday, and posted this originally to the Nanigans blog, and also to BostInnovation. I’ve made some minor grammar updates here, to correct for my speed-blogging.

We’re at f8 in San Francisco today, with the keynote speeches just concluding. After an entertaining opening with comedian Andy Samberg masquerading as Mark Zuckerberg, the real “Zuck Dawg” (as Samberg called him) took the stage to deliver the true keynote. Facebook’s CTO Bret Taylor and VP Product Chris Cox followed, along with brief cameo CEO appearances from Spotify’s Daniel Ek and Netflix’s Reed Hastings. 

Overview of Announcements

Two major announcements were made at f8: (1) introduction of the Timeline and (2) development of the Open Graph.


The Timeline puts the current profile on steroids, transforming it from a mindless stream of activity (hear that, Twitter?) to enable you to “tell the story of your life.” This redesign provides a structure through which you can highlight and curate the most important stories, photos, App activity and more into a single place. So, instead of just those granular updates, you can aggregate all of your activities, shares, events and apps into buckets within your profile. These can be browsed at a high level year-by-year, or can be drilled down into to see even more specific life events; you can even filter by content type (e.g. places vs. photos).

Open Graph

We all know that Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol is neither open, nor a graph, nor a protocol; today, we finally saw the first two of those descriptors take shape. Rather than selecting from a set number of pre-defined “nodes” in the graph (e.g., pages, apps, places) and simplified “edges” (e.g. App installs, Likes), anything can be connected to anything. OK, admittedly, when Zuck said it, there was dead silence; so, let’s dig into what this really means:

Think of there being an infinite number of Open Graph “objects” in the world, or “nouns” — things like “books,” “movies” and “TV shows.” Likewise, there are a number of “actions,” or “verbs” — such as “read,” “watch,” “listen” and “ate.” What Facebook is allowing is for all of these nouns to be connected by these verbs. The result: instead of just Liking something, you can “read a book” or “watch a movie.” The idea is to create a richer set of connections that ultimately create a new “social stories” that you can share with your friends, or discover about them.

Putting Timeline & Open Graph Together

Many of you probably noticed Facebook’s News Feed redesign launched broadly yesterday. Most significantly, it introduced an additional mini News Feed called the Ticker. The Ticker is meant to be a real-time stream where all of those passive Open Graph actions (“read,” “watched,” “listened,” etc.) are broadcasted. This makes the shares more socially acceptable, in the sense that we aren’t annoying our friends in the main News Feed by sharing ten things a day.

These smaller, “lightweight” shares in the Ticker stream past in real-time, and can be interacted with to create social experiences. And it is these social experiences which then, of course, feed back into the Timeline. For example, if I see someone listened to a Jay-Z song on Spotify in the Ticker, I can discover and listen to that song in real-time. That music discovery can then become part of my Timeline. Broader patterns (i.e., 10 of my friends are watching a movie) and more important posts (i.e., I created a playlist) will hit the main News Feed.

Those experiences, and actions, can then be “Aggregated” back into your Timeline. For instance, a TV watching app can create a nicely formatted query to showcase your most frequently watched TV shows in a given year.

What It Means for Developers & Marketers

The overall goal of the Timeline is to tell a more representative story of your life, as opposed to a chronological list of actions that only represent the most recent part of your life. The Timeline allows you to take your hundreds of thousands of social “stories”, and reorganize them into both a more consumable timeline and buckets that define who you are – such as the food you cook, content you read, music you listen to and activities like running you participate in.

The goal of the new class of Open Graph Apps is to incorporate more of those smaller moments into the Ticker, which triggers social discovery and engagement through learning about and sharing experiences with your friends. This is done by enabling real-time seamless connections through the Open Graph between Facebook, Apps and your friends. These social experiences can be aggregated into and viewed on your Timeline. Overall, this creates a nice, positive feedback loop that drives more engagement. 

What does this mean for App developers and marketers?

For developers, there is now greater opportunity to drive social discovery through next-generation Open Graph Apps, especially in media (news, music, video, etc.) and lifestyle (shopping, running, cooking, etc.) verticals, which are inherently social but have not been leveraged well on Facebook to-date.

For marketers, all the stories broadcasted in the Ticker can now be “sponsored” and turned into more powerful Sponsored Stories ads. If you own the object or “noun,” you can create a story to promote any Open Graph action or “verb” (e.g., Jay-Z can sponsor / promote any “listen” action driven by any of the many music apps). Additionally, marketers can make use of Graph Targeting, whereby people who generate connections can be targeted (e.g., targeting anyone who “listened” to that Jay-Z song).

But… more on implications later! Back to the conference, and we will follow-up with more information.

[UPDATE: Below is a link to the intro by Andy Samberg and Mark “Zuck Dawg” Zuckerberg.]

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