March 20, 2012


The internet as we know it started off as a gated community where the likes of AOL helped to onboard the masses into what would be the most prolific and connected age of all mankind. 

Content, limited as it was, was housed in neatly kept buckets while chat rooms allowed for interactivity and engagement with other users.

Email, news, communication and connectivity was delivered in one neat little package.

Web browsers then bullishly elbowed their way in and opened up the web to allow for a more serendipitous perusal. 

Browsers let people navigate the web in a more free form way by breaking down the rails that AOL had set up to onboard it's users. 

However it was very difficult to find relevant properties without having a search function to bring up websites that matched what you were looking for.

Search engines then took hold and level set the two states and offered up the entire web in a much more organized fashion.

We now enter into a new age where the web is being blanketed and sectioned off into graphs. 

The social graph, as defined by Facebook in 2007 at the f8 conference is "the global mapping of everybody and how they're related", what this does for users is it offers them the ability to login to websites and applications that will automatically populate sessions with the personal data that Facebook makes so portable. 

The social graph also allows for friends to connect through these destinations and requires less time to get up and running by simply logging in with a Facebook account.

This kind of social portability and interaction is naturally embraced by users because we crave recognition and community to help boost our self esteems through the feeling of belonging to something and the hope that we get positive feedback on the content we view and share.

There is a certain kind of thrill a user gets when logging into a new app or website with a Facebook account and seeing the level of familiarity they are used to seeing on Facebook itself.

Facebook, as broad and as vast as it is only contains a certain amount of social information, kind of like the world's active directory, a glorified address book if you will.

The information contained in our portable social graph profiles allows for a very particular experience based on the information we carry.

At it's core the data we supply Facebook is highly social and somewhat disparate and tends to cause friction when advertising or other foreign, non-social data is introduced into the stream.

We also get caught up in the trap of talking to walls rather than to one another so conversations are less engaging and our profiles tend to resemble a messy wall of who we think we are or want to be.

Fear not, there are other graphs that are forming which will provide us with an identity that is much more robust and personal than who our friends are and what their statuses say.

These new graphs are also much more advertising friendly and actually allow us to collaborate with advertisers rather than feel like they are an intrusion on our personal streams.

The interest graph is an emerging layer that is taking the web by storm. 

The interest graph shares and provides websites with a much deeper level of personal interests based on content users have carefully curated to represent the things we collect, we have, want or aspire to get.

Pinterest is currently owning the majority of the interest graph by allowing users to curate highly creative and personal mood boards that will eventually give websites and applications access to a much more personal level of insight into a user.

The interest graph is much more focused on what we like than who we know and will revolutionize the way we shop, discover and curate content on the web.

Rogue services like Instagram, Cinemagram and other interest capturing apps will now have a much more native repository for images captured, filtered and animated and browser plugins will be focused on being able to cut and share all kinds of content from the depths of the web and put them directly on to our personal boards.

The term "Content is King" has never been more relevant.

We can literally dissect websites and media and re-aggregate it based on our own preferences. 

The interest graph will help to better serve up visual content that aligns us with our tastes in fashion, culture, movies, technology and images that we feel best represent who we are and what we stand for.

The interest graph will extend our network of friends way beyond those we have friended on the social graph helping to create new circles of friends based on common values and interests. 

The interest graph is still very much up for grabs, Pinterest has a strong lead in this category as the go to network for users to create interest profiles.

Aside from the societal and interest graphs another emerging graph that is taking shape is the active graph. 

Companies like Nike, Fitbit, Jawbone, and Garmin are all vying for top dog in this category. 

The active graph represents a more physical profile of a user and can be highly valuable in allowing users to access sites and services that help track all kinds of physical, emotional and health related data.

Data is now currency and currency requires banks to house and protect it, social networks such as Facebook, Pinterest and Nike Fuel are literally banks that want to securely house the precious data that is collected every second of the day by billions of people who are pouring personal data into their respective networks and then allowing us users to access that data through an almost infinite network of apps, websites and digital services.

Social networks are now redesigning themselves in ways that allow the network to milk the public of the most amount of personal data as possible in order to then make that data more valuable and used as the key to unlock millions of websites and apps that fall into the respective categories of social, interest and active.

Whole ecosystems and economies are being built around networks that own the largest portion of the respective graphs.

This data is gold and mining this data is like mining for precious metals or oil and needless to say it pays off big time.

The utility and organization that social networks provide us is what we get in return for supplying these repositories with our personal data.

Open Graphs enable us to navigate the web in a much more personal way, it gives us the ability to seamlessly insert our data in tons of creative configurations that automatically become highly personalized simply upon logging in.

The open graph race is a literally a land grab right now. 

The networks with the most users are the gatekeepers of these graphs. 

The king of the mountain will likely change hands often as new networks with better more robust functions appear.

It is important that we are aware of the fact that we are now labeled vertices across isomorphic graphs that will both intersect and collide until we figure out a clear hierarchy of graphs and subgraphs that will properly organize our information and allow us to use our personal data as a set of keys to unlock highly personalized experiences across all digital properties.

It will be an interesting transition to observe as we digitize everything we see and do into these networks, our entire culture, fueling the creativity of app designers and developers, website engineers and the like who want to use our personal data for building communities and utilities that will hopefully benefit our lives as people and make us more connected by enhancing our human interactions and not turning us into cyborgs that are conditioned to simply syncing our observations into a digital black hole.