Facebook's new features may not be game changers on their own but the whole package is quite compelling.
If you took nothing else away from the f8 keynote, watching Mark Zuckerberg talk about social is like watching Steve Jobs talk about Apple: the pied-piper plays his tune and we can't help but follow (pun intended). There is an ultimate confidence in what is being presented. That aside, a lot of what we have seen, or had hints of, is starting to make a lot of sense.
It is now obvious that Facebook have been working on their new functionality for a while - the changes are too complex to be a knee-jerk reaction to Google+. The timing of some features may have been altered in order to keep up with the release schedule of Plus but we had previously only seen the tip of the iceberg.
Facebook has been accused of copying the competition but the expansion of the Open Graph starts to account for a number of features that it had been assumed were just being stolen from Twitter or Google+. Subscriptions are not just about emulating the follower model of Twitter but about extending your graph as Facebook thrives off the patterns and connections.
Adding verbs to the Open Graph recognises that we don't always want to "like" something as it may give the wrong impression. We need other ways to share and the read, listened, watched methods etc. make this possible - an intelligent move which may encourage us to share even more of our lives online.
Unlike original suspicions, the Ticker is not just a small duplicate of your news feed but a stream of everything you are connected to that you can dip in to at your leisure just as the casual Twitter user will dip in to their feed.
Facebook don't listen to their users?
One of the biggest complaints about Facebook since the emergence of games and apps has been the updates they place in your news feed; if I understood correctly it looks as though these will finally be gone and instead show only in the Ticker. In Zuck's own words there are things you might want to share but don't want to annoy your friends with, or clog up their feed.
Separating the interesting from the banal is something we've all been wanting to do since we joined social networks and which is why 3rd party offerings such as my6sense and human curation have become increasingly popular. If the Ticker removes a lot of this banality from our main feed (but without removing it completely so we can't complain that we didn't get the chance to see it) is a great start.
Prior to f8 I had asked if Facebook was facing an identity crisis as initial reviews ranged between praising the service for becoming more social and trying to become a news network. I argued that some of the terminology in use such as "top stories" is disconnected from the more personal, emotional language normally employed but, having now seen the full impact of the latest changes, feel that Facebook wants us to realise that the main news feed is more serious. It has been called the news feed for a long time so the terminology is, at least, consistent with that.
The Ticker has been compared to Twitter and perhaps the speed at which it streams past means that short tweet-like comments will be reserved for there while longer comments are written in response to items on the main feed.
Other networks have reaped the benefit of in-depth conversations so if a lot of the "trash" is not in our feed we may feel inclined to interact with it more seriously.
Perhaps this will be how Facebook will encourage users to make use of the new 5000 character limit they are being given which will allow for more in depth posts and comments.
Pattern recognition will show items in your feed that otherwise might have got missed. The example of a number of your friends all listening to the same artist at the same time is a case in point. Individually, these events might have passed you by but when a group of people all start doing the same thing at the same time then, just perhaps, it's something you might want to check out.
It's all very clear to me now. Dave Bowman, 2010
There is always a danger in making judgements before the event and the stories we read before f8 illustrate that we need to see the whole picture before passing comment.
The Open Graph is growing and it's becoming very powerful.
The core of this post originally appeared on Google+ but has now been re-written.