Are Facebook’s “Open Graph/Like Button” the Reincarnation of Old “Beacon”?

Facebook "Like" Button, Levis

Facebook’s “Like” Button on Levi’s online store

Facebook rolled out universal “Like” button and “Open Graph” features yesterday, and is ambitiously partnering with sites all over the web to turn users’ personal interests and online activities into a newsfeed for the now-expanded Facebook ecosystem. While this behavior seems like déjà vu, recalling Facebook’s Beacon online tracking program which was launched 3 years ago and was forced to retreat due to the huge protests by its users, Facebook has grown since then from a start-up to the number one web traffic juggernaut on the web. Will this new launch result in another privacy backlash just like 3 years ago? Taking a look at what these new features have in common with Beacon, and what are some key differences from Beacon might give a hint to that question.

Both Like/Open Graph and Beacon adopt the opt-out setting, and the opt-out for Beacon was heavily criticized because it was not easy to access at that time. Overall, I personally do not like opt-out schemes, especially when it comes to sensitive issues like people’s privacy, Facebook should have learned from the recent privacy backslash towards Google’s Buzz and even their changes to privacy settings just a few months ago. Facebook might argue that people have to actually click the “like” button to personally “opt-in” to endorse it, but I still think Facebook could be much more discreet about handling users’ private information.

In Beacon, Facebook let advertisers place their ads alongside users’ purchasing activity online, calling it a “recommendation from a trusted friend”. With the “Open Graph” feature, Facebook lets partner websites pull users’ profile information and their friends’ “like” information, then these sites can personalize products and services on their site for the user according to what the user and his/her friends have previously “liked”, which is a different version of “recommendation from a trusted friend”. Besides that, the explicit number how many people in total “like” a webpage or product would also cast strong social proof effect to the user, even though these people are outside the user’s social circle, these “like”s still count as a word of mouth recommendation.

Now that the “Like” button itself and the data associated with can exist ubiquitously all over the web, this will further strengthen Facebook’s influence on the internet. A user’s identity and information are no longer confined to the closed Facebook ecosystem, but are now easily accessible across the web by numerous websites, and these sites no longer have to delete information they’ve gathered every 24 hours, a huge step forward from Facebook Connect. This means viral messages spreading through people’s newsfeeds in the Facebook ecosystem can be further amplified for greater organic publicity for companies.

Facebook’s new “Like” and “Open Graph” function are going to challenge many online services, from review sites like Yelp, to information-sharing sites like Twitter, and even search engines like Google, with their rich information system, at the same time, it will also open a vast array of opportunities for many third developers to develop new social platforms around it. If everything works out the way they would like, Facebook may completely rewrite the rules for social media.


Facebook to Enter China By the End of This Year?


What would Facebook look like in China?

I’ve heard rumors that Facebook is going to enter China by the end of this year, and well, considering I saw this news from sources like BusinessWeek, China Daily, and Bloomberg, I guess I can’t really call it a rumor anymore. But the suspicious part of this news is that all these authoritative media outlets claim the same news source: the popular Chinese online portal Yet itself did not give out any detailed information about this either, and only credited an unidentified person as their source. And then if you add the unlikeliness of Facebook entering China at this time point, it totally sounds like a rumor right?

Take a look at China Daily’s report below, which is the most conflicting news I have read in a long time:

Title: Facebook Plans to Enter China

Body: Facebook spokesman Larry Yu said the Palo Alto social media king is “interested in China, just as we are many other countries, and while we are studying and learning about them all, we have no specific plans for China at this time.”

No specific plans? Facebook, are you coming or not? China Daily, could you stop fooling with my and thousands Chinese social network users’ hearts?

Despite the ambiguous quality of this news itself, it got forwarded by many tech news sites in China, and also picked up by many foreign media outlets like the ones mentioned above. After Google’s exit from China, the attention around foreign technology companies’ business moves in China has been very high. Most Chinese tech media and blogs are not very positive about Facebook’s prospects in China, even if they find a way into the market. The current Chinese social network market has been very saturated by the Big Three: Tencent’s QQ , Renren, and Kaixin001. QQ is the most original one that sprang from their pervasive instant messaging service in China, while Renren was a copycat of Facebook at the outset, but has evolved since then and holds a tight grip on Chinese college and fresh graduate demographics. Kaixin001 started from work professionals, and caught fire from their popular embedded social games like Chinese Farmville. Almost overnight Kaixin001 made all Chinese white collar professionals grow corps and steal vegetables during their office hours. Even government policy has played a favorable hand in these local Chinese web companies’ growth, examining eBay’s loss to Chinese eCommerce site Taobao, Yahoo’s loss to Chinese web portal sites, and also Google’s famous loss to Chinese search engine Baidu, I have to say an understanding of the local market plays the most important role in these battles. So, if Facebook is really coming to China soon, they better learn a good lesson from these previous cases and be fully prepared to fight a hard battle.

Get Back Your Forgotten Myspace Password, Join The Real Time Music Hunt!

(The UI for this App is a slick piece of design: big buttons, simple elements, bright contrasting colors, and one single click leads people to what they want)

This is truly the first time Myspace gave me a pleasant surprise since I involuntarily signed up for a Myspace account months ago: the refreshing real-time music search app, “We Are Hunted Myspace Radio Station” just launched, not only on the Myspace website, but also on iPhone and Android at the same time. Trying it out, I have to say Myspace has finally done something right with their valuable music assets after such a long time. They have fused the two hottest things on the web right now: crowdsourcing (or more precisely, “hordesourcing” according to Wired) of millions of Myspace music lovers’ picks, and a real-time music feed, to rejuvenate its long neglected music gold mine. As a result, this app will likely help Myspace and its indie music groups open up to a larger public audience.

Here is more detailed information of how it works, according to Myspace:

  • We monitor what MySpace users are listening to via the MySpace Real Time Stream. Depending on the time of day, we hear 15 to 100 updates every second.
  • The most popular artist in the last 60 seconds plays next.
  • The service is tuned for music discovery service. The programming is biased to favor new and emerging music popular right now. We play only 60 second samples of each song with a voice intro so you know what is playing.
Listening to these 60 seconds tracks, when you catch something that is interesting to you, you can also easily drag it to “my favorite tracks” box on the right side of the app page. Also, one simple click on the album icon can lead you to the artist’s Myspace page to learn more about them.

After listening to it for a while tonight, I have to say it is really not bad. Besides these new, refreshing music tracks themselves (finally something other than the ubiquitous Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga songs playing for the millionth time from the car radio), I simply love the interesting mash-up of different genres of music. Listening to my familiar genres of music on Pandora is safe and delightful, but going out there and being a little adventurous with a crowd-sourced DJ on Myspace can open up a whole new world of music.

One additional bonus: this app is quite easy to use, as long as you can find your Myspace password after abandoning the site for so long (ha!), one minute is all you need to get started with this app. Try it out here.

Google’s Nearby Search Function Adds Strength to Its Online Review Service

Last Friday, Google released the “Search Nearby Me” function in its search options panel. This new search function helps people find relevant search results based on their real-time geographic location instead of solely searching based on key words. I vaguely remember at sometime point last week, when I was Googling something, a toolbar box popped up asking me if I wanted to disclose my location to Google. Sure, I clicked. Now when I try to use this new function to find Chinese restaurants, a bunch of restaurants near my default location (you can set custom locations too) pop up, along with local Chinese restaurant information from popular review sites like Yelp and

What I found most handy from this function is that it also pulls in the combined information of local Chinese restaurants that have registered with Google’s Local Business Center, with their locations showing up in the Google Map. The scary part of this is that once you click into any of these restaurants, not only are their location, hours, price and other useful basic information displayed, but like an octopus, Google has also compiled a list of ratings and reviews of that restaurant from other review sites. And if you sign in with your Google account, you can write a review of it right away on the spot. So far I have seen reviews pulled from couple websites like 10best, Trip Advisor, Yahoo Local and Urbanspoon, but I have not seen any reviews directly pulled from Yelp. Does Yelp not allow Google to aggregate their reviews? What is the deal here?

With this Google Nearby search function, the pace of local businesses building their presence online may only accelerate. Having a profile registered with Google’s Local Business Center will soon become a must for any business that wants to be searchable and survive the intertwining offline and online world.

The Google Nearby location-based search function shows how aggressively Google is in approaching the local business review sector pioneered by Yelp. Google has encroached upon the property of traditional media’s online content and news, then pulled in social media feeds (via Google’s recent incorporation of the social media feeds into its search results), and now they are reaching into the reputation-review systems that was mainly supported by online review sites. Right now, I think the biggest weapons that review sites like Yelp can use to fight back against Google are the communities inhabiting their sites, whose users passionately contribute their reviews there instead of on a broader Google review platform. Google’s services are almost too ubiquitous. Users with Google accounts hardly view themselves as valued members of a “Google community”, thus Google can hardly enjoy the stickiness brought by the social side of a community. But in the long run, with Google’s efforts to build a giant system that covers every aspect of people’s online activities, it is likely that Google may still win in these aspects of web services due to its overwhelming scale.

Jeremiah Owyang: Web Strategy: How To Evolve Your Irrelevant Corporate Website

Web Strategist Jeremiah Owyang published the article Web Strategy: How To Evolve Your Irrelevant Corporate Website in his blog Web Strategy three years ago with great foresight. Today as the online community has proven to be the epicenter for online conversations and interactions, more and more web technologies and companies that provide these services, like KickApps, have emerged to help companies revolutionize their website to be more community-friendly and “relevant” to their customers.

POM Wonderful is one of the pioneers in transforming their company website from a static information center to a dynamic “pomegranate-lover” community. Another great examples is Dell’s IdeaStorm project: customer ideas to improve products prompted endless inspiration to Dell’s product development teams, which would in turn help them better meet the needs of their customers. After all, who else could be a better person to turn to for advice on better serving your customers than the consumers themselves. They congregate and speak up ardently about your products in these online communities. No matter if these opinions are positive or negative ones, they are all valuable ones for the company to listen to. This kind of listening was once done by small and expensive focus groups, but social tools and online communities have largely reduced the transaction costs and afforded companies many more channels to listen to invaluable opinions from much larger and passionate groups in a real-time setting.

Also, letting these conversations happen at “home” is better than letting it happen elsewhere, because by providing a place for consumers to voice their opinions on your own website, not only does that generate valuable customers insight for you, but also shows your real respect and care for your consumers.These actions invite them to truly be owner for your brand and build the brand with you.

Since social network sites started to take off in China 3 years ago, they have undergone exponential growth and their traction among Chinese netizens has subsequently made these sites the new battlegrounds for Chinese companies to connect with customers. Now, these companies are just one step away from bringing these users and conversations back to their company websites by incorporating social media functions on these sites. I have translated Jeremiah Owyang’s prescient article into Chinese, hopefully helping it reach more people that would find it of great value. Thank you Jeremiah Owyang.


Jeremiah Owyang









很多网络市场营销者都有这种印象,那就是网络营销之战只在谷歌(Google)搜索引擎以及 企业的网站里上演。但是在现实生活中,网络市场营销已经散布到许多别的对话产生的领 域:社交网站,评分网站,网络聊天室,甚至博客中。就这个话题,我撰写了一篇独立的博 文进行探讨:为什么网络市场营销不只发生在两个网络领域中。



















The Third Place In Online Communities

As Oldenburg described in his book The Great, Good Place other than our home and work place, a “third place” where people can meet others and relax, for example the local coffee shop or local bookstore, is much needed and essential in human social relationships. There, people can escape from the many responsibilities of their daily lives and dive in to a casual environment to enjoy social ties with other people, and maybe even seize the chance to be a different person for a while. This literature, which was published ten years ago, has many implications for today’s computer-centric communities, as these online communities are indeed serving the need of a “third place” for people, and provide a public place for people to meet and interact.

Among all the online “third places” like forums or Wikipedia, I am most interested in the third place in social networks. At the center of popular social network sites like Facebook or Chinese social network Qzone are people’s personal profile pages, where people manage their contacts and post personal updates. They interact with their friends mostly through wall posting and messages; this personal profile page serves as the “home” function in these SNSs and people occasionally go to their friends’ “homes” to visit and say hi. Besides the profile page, there is also a Home page, which is constantly fed with news and updates from people’s friends, and it functions more like an information center.

The real third place for people on these SNSs to socialize and meet people outside of their current social circle actually lies elsewhere: they are the online game spaces and public pages created either by commercial groups or other institutions. After more and more people settle into their homes in these SNSs, these public third places that serve as the “cafes and bars” start to appear and take off. When people are gathering in poker rooms of Chinese SNS Q-zones’ online game space to play poker with each other, or when people are pouring their love or hate of a product onto a brand’s Facebook page, they interact with each other outside their “home” and outside their usual social circle. In these third places their social need for more casual ties with others is satisfied. People are also willing to pay these third places for the services they provide, for example, paying for virtual plant seeds in a Farmville game is essentially the same as paying for a bottle of beer to start a conversation in a bar, right? This might explain the rosy business prospects of virtual goods in the SNS world, because in these third places people are willing to pay for the social capital they gain. Building good third places on social networks for people to hang out and interact with each other is just as essential as building good third places in the real world to sustain people’s needs for a community.

What Makes Ning Different From Facebook and Twitter

Today we will have Charles Porch from the rising social network platform coming to our class to share with us his insights about the social media world and also about the unique aspects about Ning. I have heard of Ning and registered an account there couple of months ago. My recent exploration at Ning showed me how convenient and easy to build a social network site on it, and also these very interesting niche networks there that attract circles of people sharing the same interest and passion. To my surprise, it supports Chinese language, so I created a social network for my Chinese friends back home, and I also started another social network site on it called Happy Chinese New Year, for Chinese people living in L.A. to share their experience living oversea, and celebrate the Chinese New Year that is coming along next weekend.

While Ning exhibits its strong point by providing people a intimate social network experience, many people like me might also be curious what the difference between Ning and other popular social network platforms like Facebook and Myspace is. According to a recent interview of the Ning’s CEO Gina Bianchini from Tech Crunch, Gina does not view Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn as their competitors, instead, she thinks that these social network platforms have developed their own edges and are dominant in their own areas. Compared to the experience provided by Facebook and other social platforms, the features of Ning deliver a more in-depth and immersive experience with the brands and things centered in Ning’s networks; thus Ning can integrate the service of other social platforms like the Twitter as the distribution channels, and at the other end, Ning would be the destination of the interest and passion where people settle and engage with the each other in a deeper level.