Last week, Facebook announced some sweeping changes to the way it interacts with social applications. Here’s one: instead of requiring users to “Like” content or manually post updates each time they want to share content, applications can now write directly to a user’s profile without needing separate authentication. A user simply grants the application the permission once, and voila! – activity within that app automatically becomes part of that user’s Facebook data.
The Washington Post Social Reader app is a great example of how these changes can be applied:
It’s a subtle change, but it really opens the door for more online activity to be tracked on a user’s profile. You probably get the gist of it, but if you want to learn more about these changes, read the articles here, here, and here.
While it’s far too early to gauge the true impact of the new Open Graph, it does signal an important shift. Previously, Facebook has been more focused on what users are doing recently: where Bob went for a run today, what artist Jane is listening to this afternoon, the photos from Rick’s camping trip last weekend. Events that happened weeks or months ago have generally tended to get lost.
However, the Facebook experience will now allow users to build more of a retrospective “scrapbook” of events that a user feels is important to his or her identity. By allowing activity from a site to recorded automatically, the user can easily look back and see, for example, all the artists he’s listened to on I Heart Radio over the past year. In fact, one of the new features they’re rolling out along with the Open Graph is called Timeline. In essence, Facebook is extending the definition of identity to include what has happened over the entire course of a user’s life.
So what does this mean for causes? Let’s think for a second about one of the main reasons people support charity. Altruism? Perhaps. Guilt? Maybe. How about recognition? We probably don’t like to admit it, but most of us wouldn’t mind getting a little credit for supporting a good cause. Ever turn to the back of a non-profit’s annual report to see the individuals who’ve donated at different levels? Or seen the bricks on a new football stadium impressed with the names of top supporters? Recognition is a powerful way of reinforcing charitable support.
Now imagine that all your charitable support was automatically posted and stored on your Facebook profile. If you could look back and see how you’d supported causes over time, it would be a powerful way to gauge and demonstrate your dedication to philanthropy. Vanity aside, there could be some real value here: creating a sense of accomplishment, being able to track which causes have been important to you, seeing if you’ve met your giving goals – all of these are great reasons to track charitable support in a single location. Think Memolane for philanthropy. Such an experience hasn’t been built yet, but Facebook’s Open Graph certainly takes us closer in that direction.
What do you think? How else will Facebook’s recent moves change the way people interact with causes?
For another perspective, read Causes.com founder Joe Green’s take on the recent changes.