OMG Facebook

By Tim Ballingall

Seven years, one award-winning film, $800 million, and 600 million users ago, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg founded Thefacebook. Because the history of its inception and subsequent legal drama has been the talk of the town for years, it seems refreshing to look to the uncertain future of this digital colossus.

$1 US = 10 FB Credits

On Jan. 24, 2011, Facebook announced the July 1 deadline for 3rd party developers to totally make the switch to the virtual currency, Facebook Credits. Credits has been in testing since May 2009, and some developers have partially implemented the virtual currency already. The advantage of this is standardization. The disadvantage, to developers, is a 30% revenue cut.

Facebook is not requiring developers to make Credits the sole currency on their games. But for those who do, there are incentives. “These developers will receive early access to product features and premium promotion on Facebook, including featured placement on the Games Dashboard, premium targeting for ads, and access to new co-promotion opportunities,” writes Deborah Liu, a lead platform marketing manager at Facebook.

Mark Brown of Wired UK points out the ulterior motive: “Facebook gets a 30 percent cut on Credit purchases. That’s the same revenue share Apple holds on in-app purchases on iPhone, but much more than the one to five percent cut PayPal takes from small purchases.”

This virtual currency is not without its problems, however. Just begin typing in the Youtube search bar, “Facebook Credits,” and you’ll see that “hack,” “for free,” and “cheat” are some popular suggestions.

Open Graph = The Future

After you click “Leave a Comment,” at the top of this post, you’ll see a “like” button. That meta tag would not be there if it weren’t for the Open Graph protocol introduced at last April’s f8 conference. (And since this is a post partially about metadata, that meta tag is, like, a meta meta tag.)

Other sites you may find the “like” button include CNN, NYTimes, IMDb, Pandora, most amateur blogs, and the like.

Within a week of its launch, the “like” button appeared on as many as 50,000 websites.

Open Graph utilizes personal information you deem public and communicates it to other websites. At the f8 conference, Zuckerberg said this:

“Yelp is mapping out the part of the graph that relates to small businesses. Pandora is mapping out the part of the graph that relates to music. … “If we can take these separate maps of the graph and pull them all together, then we can create a Web that’s smarter, more social, more personalized, and more semantically aware.”

Basically a user “likes” something—a news story, a video, a photo, a restaurant—which tells Facebook that this particular site was of interest to someone, and that site can be ranked among the myriad other sites getting liked by other users. With 50,000 sites using “like” buttons within a week of its launch, that’s a lot of information coming in. So what’s there to do with all the semantic data amassed by “like” buttons?

Launch a semantic search engine, of course. Facebook, with its massive data-gathering capability, seems like the only contender to Google, especially with controversy surrounding Bing earlier this week.

But would a search engine based on what people “like” be reliable? Would it attract advertising revenue? Greg Sterling of and Christopher Dawson of seem to think not. Both, however, do think this will be a good kick in the pants for Google.

Big Picture

Rick Bookstaber is the Senior Policy Adviser at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He received a PhD in economics from MIT. In 2007 he authored A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation. Last month he posted on his blog an article regarding the future of Facebook. It’s very theoretical and high-brow but a good read nonetheless.

Go to the Rohrbach Library’s Articles and Databases. Search IEEE Computer Society in Databases. This is a brand-spanking new database available to KU students and faculty. It houses a plethora of articles on Facebook.

What do you think of Facebook Credits? Privacy issues with Open Graph? The future of humanity in the age of Facebook?


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