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How’s Facebook’s social graph doing three years on?

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It’s three years since Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed the power of the social graph? Well its certainly progressed from the 24 million active users it had it May 2007. Here’s what he said, as reported by ZDNet on the subject. Interesting to note that Ning has had a few problems since then, shedding its free service to most users, while Gina Bianchini has left the company – I guess that’s freedom for you. Anyhow it’s time to get into the time machine and turn the dial to May 2007:

Zuckerberg attributed the power of Facebook to the “social graph, ” the network of connections and relationships between people on the service. He said, “It’s the reason Facebook works.”

“Its changing the way the world works,” he said, pushing information out faster than any big company can. “As Facebook adds more and more people with more and more connections it continues growing and becomes more useful at a faster rate. We are going to use it spread information through the social graph.” The net effect of the social graph is that groups and application can achieve exponential growth, he said.

“The Facebook platform is optimized for building applications in Facebook, and with more value for people to develop on our base than we could do on our own. People are already building social apps, but they have to reconstruct the social graph all by themselves. We are going to allow developers worldwide to do complete new things. Today social networks are completely closed nets…today we are going to end that. With this [framework] any developer worldwide can build full applications on top of the social graph inside the Facebook Platform.”

Gina Bianchini, CEO of Ning, which makes another social networking service doesn’t agree that Facebook is going to bring the end closed social networks. “All freedom is good, but when people get a taste of type of freedom Facebook is launching today, they want more than a bite. A tightly controlled service can be successful, but fundamentally people want freedom at every level,” she said.

Facebook is open to third parties to integrate on top of the service, but you do have to inhabit the Facebook’s walled garden, social graph. On the other hand, a controlled environment like Facebook can leverage the huge network of people and allows for targeted innovation.

I guess Mr Zuckerberg is doing is trying to make sure that Facebook has the largest possible social graph, and any issues around privacy controls need to be therefore considered in that context. Obvious when you think about it. Anyhow take a look at Mashable’s view on the subject, in this piece from April this year, with the launch of the new Open Graph API and protocol and the “ability to integrate websites and web apps within your existing social network”, the point is that “public no longer means “public on Facebook,” it means “public in the Facebook ecosystem”.