How Defensible is the Social Graph?

Facebook-Places-vs-Google-Places-300x225 I was about to retweet Chris Dixon's blog post on social network interoperability (@cdixon is one of the clearest thinkers at the abstract level on the connected economy), but then I decided it's probably worth a blog post.

If you read my blog, you'll know that I am a very big believer in the value of the social graph, or the identity layer of the internet.  As Chris points out, Metcalf's Law suggests that Facebook's lead here is so big that it's insurmountable by any of the aspiring players.  However, I think there's a subtle and very complex factor also in effect here.  And Chris Dixon identifies it as a potential cause to push FB into interoperability.

I think that's a very interesting idea.  However, if I were to bet, Facebook would continue to be extremely protective of its social graph data.  Why?  Because it's in its DNA.

Today, I got access to a web-based CRM-type application.  The app made me walk through a very simple wizard, and quickly got a strong sense of my social graph.  Gmail can probably do the same, just by looking at the emails Facebook has sent to me.  When you operate as a platform, even if you're trying to be protective, you are more open than you think.

So, I would like to reverse my position on Facebook's lock on the identity layer.  A truly open player (and I am not sure if Google Me is going to be that open), can strip the identity layer from Facebook (or vkontakte, QQ, etc.)  This will be a tough race, similar to the iPhone vs. Android battle we have coming up.  But in this case, open will have an even stronger advantage, thanks to Metcalfe.

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