Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

 A Circle

I just got on Google+, and the Circles concept definitely moves the ball forward, but my heart sinks a little at having yet another disconnected social identity. It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again – social networking needs to be an open, core internet standard like email. You can live on Facebook, Google, Twitter, wherever but your social graph should be independent of any specific service.

I don’t mean this in any (well, OK, a little) granola crunching open source way. Companies should compete to the death on their social graph implementation and added value. But the actual data on who your friends are should belong to you and should be both portable and interoperable. I should be able to friend someone on Google from within Facebook and share core items in both directions. If I get fed up of Facebook I should be able to move my graph and central identity elsewhere.

We’ve got OpenSocial, strangely not mentioned in the same breath as Google+, and Open Graph which is open for things but not people. Also FOAF, XUP, and other possible foundational standards. Of course the barriers here aren’t technical.

Altly wants to be Pepsi to Facebook’s Coke. I’m waiting to see what it tastes like, but it doesn’t sound like they’re itching to change the game.

Diaspora is an interesting project, but running instances (pods) of a social network is the wrong level of abstraction.

Of course ‘owning’ the graph is tremendously valuable and it’s hard to see Facebook giving this up anytime soon. If Google really don’t want to be evil they should use Google+ to liberate us from the tyranny of walled social gardens. Unless it turns out to be another Buzz or Wave in which case it’s down to us.

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Top 5 reasons to hate the Facebook like button

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

5. Validation

The metadata required to use the like button looks like this:



But the property attribute isn't valid html or xhtml. The “Open” Graph Protocol says that it's inspired by Dublin Core. DC manages to get by using the name attribute like any other meta tag - why can't Open Graph? It's not the worst problem but it just seems needlessly irksome. Facebook has published a presentation describing their design decisions. This would be great, but it's in that Lessig one word per slide style and so it's attractive but completely useless without the presenter.

4. Fragility

Facebook's documentation is frustratingly sparse. For example you need to specify the owner of the page using a Facebook ID, and once you've chosen a name for your profile this is hard to find. The information vacuum has been filled with many erroneous blog posts saying to use the name, or some number from a shared photo (the best source is, substituting your own username). Once you've got the admin ID wrong, you can't correct it - the first admin specified is fixed forever. What happens if a site is hacked and a bad actor sets themselves up as the admin? Surely something like the Google Webmaster Tools authentication scheme could have been used instead?

3. Pages with more than one object

Describing the object being liked in the head element limits you to one object per page. For some sites this is perfect, but what about a blog where you have many posts on the home page? It would be useful to have a like button per post, pointing at the permalink for the post in question. I've worked around this by having a like button for the blog on the home page, and a like button for each post on the post pages. Not ideal. I'm using the iframe version of the gadget, possibly there's some more flexibility with the XBML variant.

2. Duplicating existing pages

Let's say you've spent the past couple of years building up a Facebook page for your site/band/blog/movie and have thousands of fans. When you click your new like button for the first time you create a whole new page. There's no way to tell the like button about the existing page or the existing page about the like button. You now have at least two pages to worry about managing and potentially many, many more. You're also starting from scratch on the ‘like’ count, so even if your brand is already popular on Facebook it's back to Billy no-mates for you.

I can't believe this won't be fixed at some point. As with admin authentication above there must be a better way to establish ownership of various objects in the social graph.

1. Vocabulary

Doctors defend genital nick for girls

For better or worse Facebook has the inexorable pull to start making the semantic web a reality. Given this, and that there are something like twenty-four thousand verbs in the English language it's time for more expressiveness than ‘like’. You also can't comment on the ‘liked’ item in your stream (yet) so no clarification or discussion is possible.


Having said all that, if you enjoyed this post please click the ‘like’ button above ;)

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