There is good reason to think that even the way we think about who is in our social networks is going to undergo massive change, driven in part by our new access to strangers with common interests.
The point of all of this is not to argue about the value of the interest graph compared to the social graph. It’s simply to recognize that they’re different things, obey different social rules, have different opportunities and challenges and different types of value, and ultimately are influencing each other in increasingly interesting and complex ways.
Like always, the most successful entrepreneurs and investors will be the people who not only take advantage of the increasing clarity between these two graphs, but through their products and services amplify how we use them to make business and life more fun, easy, and successful.
Facebook looks to capitalize on this by “renting” their graph to websites through Facebook Connect, which, he says, “is exceptionally powerful” and in turn may lead to their successfully “replacing core messaging services.” And if Facebook does become the Web’s next communication platform, then it will “be undoubtedly in the running for the most valuable company in the world.” Considering the importance of communication in our digital world, I think few would disagree with his conjecture.
In support of Levchin’s point, Gurley recounted the similar example of how Netflix had originally implemented a social graph model into their movie recommendation system but quickly found that it wasn’t nearly as effective as other types of recommendation algorithms. For many, it would seem intuitive that socially-generated recs would be great indicators of what we’d like, but it’s also true that most of us hang out with friends that have at least a few special hobbies or passions that are very different from our own.
As such, what everyone in Silicon Valley and “Venture Land” conceive of as the real game-changing model involves capturing and capitalizing on the “interest graph,” he says. The company that succeeds in doing so would be “close to the Google search paradigm because it would be right in line with demand generation and with discovery that relates to product purposes.”
I think we can be sure that whoever can collect a record of your current interests and package them for advertisers stands to make a lot of money. Levchin says that Twitter may end up being a more advantageous platform to advertisers because it allows you to follow a brand and get realtime information and updates — through brand discovery and celebrity discovery — which is more likely to be informative than what you get from your friends, who may not be experts. Twitter has said that it believes that it has control over the interest graph, but status updates don’t really provide the depth and contextualization that is really needed. Of course, the interest graph isn’t exclusive. Facebook, Twitter, and startups like Gravity are hoping to capitalize on it — though something tells me that Levchin wants to bring a slice of the interest graph to Google as well.
The only hope for truly assembling a person’s interest graph is to connect implicit user data across a huge swath of web and mobile services. Google knows what you search for. EBay and Amazon know what you own. Apple knows what music and media you like. Apps like foursquare, GetGlue and CardStar know where you spend your time, what you watch on TV, and where you shop.
“citing demand generation and demand discovery (search) advertising as a prime example of the limitations of the social graph. “ Google ads are not for demand generation, nor discovery; Facebook ads are. You already know what you want to get when you search for it. That part is demand fulfillment. On the other hand, you might “discover” that you really like those Nike shoes your friend just bought when you see his status update about it.
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