7. June 2012–
Gidsy, SoundCloud, EyeEm, Amen, Tape.tv, Readmill, Simfy, Moviepilot, Crowdpark and Zattoo – Facebook showed the Berlin startup scene and tech world some big likes last night, as it opened up its doors – and its Open Graph API – to some of the city's best-known apps and services.
The event at Soho House, Torstrasse had a guest list that read like a Who's Who of the Berlin tech scene, with well-known faces from the most famous Berlin startups demonstrating how their products would now integrate more deeply with the social network.
So what is Facebook Open Graph? And how much will it mess with my Timeline?
In a nutshell, Facebook Open Graph is an extension of its Social Graph – the sophisticated algorithms that connect all the users on the social network together through their images, events, likes and various actions. Open Graph allows third-party developers to include actions and consumption of their users join the party.
So when you see that your friend has listened to tracks on Spotify or has read a story on Yahoo News or made a booking on Ticketmaster, or watched a movie on Netflix, that's Open Graph at work. And when you're increasingly asked to "Sign-in through Facebook" to external services, that's also why.
Companies get valuable peer-to-peer recommendations for their products as well as detailed social media demographics, users get inspiration on what to consume (and more stalk fodder naturally)... while Facebook finally gets a way to monetise its massive user base and snare global brands into a model that will soon be inescapable.
Berlin gets on board the Facebook brandwagon
It's unusual for Facebook to host such a relatively grass-roots affair, but it knows that Open Graph is best explained by cool brand ambassadors such as Gidsy's Edial or the Amen crew rather than coming from the social media behemoth itself.
Christian Hernandez, Director Platform Partnerships EMEA at Facebook explains: "There's a great buzz in Berlin right now. If it were up to me I would have offices here. [Hernandez does most of his EMEA work from London offices, while Berlin's two permanent Facebook staffers deal mostly with governmental policy issues]
“Today I had lunch with the 'fathers' of the scene – Christophe Maire, Jens from Wooga, the Rocket guys – there's been a real organic growth here and it's good to see these founders invest to create the ecosystem that we have now.
"These new generation of apps are mobile and social and they have gained the momentum that you need to keep an ecosystem going.”
By bringing on board the hippest names in Berlin social and mobile, it raises the online profile of ambitious startups while upping its own credibility – and we as punters can now share details of our Soundcloud mixes, Readmill books, Tape.tv clips, EyeEm uploads, Amen opinions and Gidsy tours with our friends.
The future of social consumption – does it taste like spam?
But is this a step too far for the common or garden Facebook user? Will we end up with countless spams on what our friends are having for lunch, uploading on their phones, watching on TV? Will logging in through a Facebook account become the norm for all our third-party apps and services?
Facebook asserts that it uses its algorithms to give items of more social relevance more prominence, although no-one (including any of the founders present) knows exactly how.
"We just have to wait and see how it goes", said a typically laidback Edial Dekker. "Each peer recommendation Ticketmaster gets is worth $4, because of the trust. No one fully knows at this stage how significant this will be."
"No, we don't know how the algorithm works exactly," says Fabian Heuser of Tape.tv. "But we know that Facebook knows what it's doing".
Indeed it does – shaping the entire future of social consumption on the web, making itself an un-ignorable partner for any emergent app or service and collecting some of the most profitable sets of user data on the planet... Just don't forget to click "Like"...