Think of it like the “Six degrees to Kevin Bacon” graph, or rather web. It shows connections between people and the things they are connected to creating a web that encompasses all your relationships and interactions, and relationships and interactions of the people you are connected with and the people they are connected with.
A giant web of interests and relationships that help make a social media website relevant and interesting. It is the proprietary fabric that social media websites are cut out from, and it is exclusively designed by them making them unique and better (or worse) because of its design.
I know Mark Zuckerberg is a genius, he created a 100 billion dollar company and I’m several thousand dollars in debt (so far, the jury is still out on this one), but let me tell you this: Facebook is so ugly in design terms that I can only attribute the bulk of its success to Mark’s great social graph creation. Orkut was way nicer in design, and since it is now defunct you will have to take my word for it, you could create communities in Orkut with funny names like “Mom I love you – give me money” and people would join, when you saw someone’s page you could see all this crazy community icons (with funny pictures associated to them) right on the person’s profile page. It was funny, and colorful, and out of order in a crazy way. I always thought that Google must have felt about Orkut like my parents felts when they left me home alone for the weekend and came back on Monday morning: “what the hell happened to this house”. People took Orkut and went on a wild rampage using it in ways its owners would never have imagined.
Facebook is like a nice University, all your friends are there but the Dean is a bitch and rules are strict. You can’t paint the walls crazy colors and everything looks like it was designed by my grandpa (if he could design anything), it looks old and unfashionable, like the upholstery on an old Pan Am jet’s seats.
And yet, it is wildly successful. Why? I say, smart social graph design that makes connections happen and keep the information flowing, while you forget how ugly and industrial everything looks.
Here is Business Insider’s explanation of what is a social graph (in more specific terms Facebook’s social graph which is actually a data structure): “Photos, events, and pages are connected with other information such as your relationships to your friends, stuff that you share, and photos that you tag.”
Facebook’s social graph allows other apps, such as Spotify, to tap into your Facebook social profile and say to your friends what you are listening to (and vice-versa). When others can access a social network social graph all the data about your actions on these sites becomes interconnected.
Techcrunch describes the social graph as proprietary features that let other websites and programs you use interact with your social media profile (the find friends feature). This is what they say: “Facebook knows who you are, what you’re interested in, where you go on the web, what apps you use, and more. However, other companies have bits and pieces of these data sets. LinkedIn knows your resume, Google knows your web searches, Twitter knows who you follow, Apple and Amazon have your credit card number, and your phone’s OS maker knows what apps you’ve downloaded. Who your real-life friends are, though, is Facebook’s domain.”
Engage Interactive described the social graph as: “The Open Graph protocol was originally created by Facebook, and is used to assign properties (title, url, image etc) to your object (the page you’re sharing).”
The social graph is the proprietary sauce that social media networking sites keep tweaking endlessly to remain relevant, it is the base of their recipe to success. It is also what makes all of our online moves connect to each other somehow when we use a social media profile to log into another site, or cross-post information from one site to another. It can make our experience on the web richer, and more relevant as systems learn what we want and whom we interact with and in what way we do it.
On the other hand, privacy is pretty much out the window. I always assumed that when I signed up for something like Facebook I was pretty much selling my soul (and the soul of my unborn children and their children) to the devil. And I was right. No one really reads the very long contract you have to press “agree” to in order to sign up for one of those sites, and they are pretty much authorized to use your information and share it at will. That’s the trade of. There is no way to play on the social network world without surrendering permission for the website to use your info and learn from it as it sees fit.