The Open Graph API: What Does It Mean?

At yesterday’s Facebook Developer Garage, Facebook outlined a number of the upcoming changes to the Facebook Platform which we are still in the process of digesting, however one major thing stood out to us: the Open Graph API. Why Facebook chose to share this tidbit is a little bit curious, as it appears to be a shot at smoothing over some of the broader changes at hand. Whatever the impact of Facebook’s changes on developers are, the Open Graph API is part of a broader movement by Facebook.

What Is The Open Graph API?

At the beginning of July we highlighted the concept of the Community Platform API, or a way to embed Facebook Pages anywhere on the web. Yesterday, we found out what Facebook was officially calling the product: the Open Graph API. According to Facebook, “The Open Graph API will allow any page on the Web to have all the features of a Facebook Page – users will be able to become a Fan of the page, it will show up on that user’s profile and in search results, and that page will be able to publish stories to the stream of its fans.”

While the service won’t be rolled out for at least another 6 months, it illustrates how Facebook is looking to become an identity aggregator for its users. As I previously wrote, the service would most likely be used as an abstract community platform. With the flexibility provided by the open web, developers will have more control over how users navigate through their community.

The Open Graph API is also a step toward making the web more social. As Charlene Li once said, we won’t have to think about social networks as destinations eventually as everything will simply be a social experience. Facebook hopes that all those social experiences point back to one location: Facebook. Right now the concept of the Open Graph API is a big one as well as a vague one as we still have no idea how it will be implemented.

Facebook As The Authentication Hub

By implementing this new service however, Facebook will become the primary authentication hub for social experiences around the web. This authentication process makes Facebook the center of user identities and yesterday’s announcement of opening up developer access to emails means Facebook has literally become a wrapper for OpenID.

While Google is aggressively going after the identity space, it appears that Facebook has the best shot at owning it as the company continues to add over 5 million members a week. We’re still watching the evolution of the social web take place and Facebook is making one solid step after the other. The company has most effectively abstracted each component of their site in contrast to companies like MySpace who haven’t been able to adapt as quickly.

We Await The Next Evolution

For now, developers will have to wait and see what the Open Graph API means for them but more importantly, they’ll need to focus on Facebook’s impending platform changes. We’ll be posting more about those changes in the coming days as we speak with developers. It’s clear that Facebook is focused on the long term vision of making the web more social and with the upcoming changes announced at yesterday’s developer garage, the company is moving in the right direction.

What do you think of Facebook’s Open Graph API announcement? How do you think this will impact developers? Do you think it will make the experience better for users?