LikeButton.Me: A Big Window into Facebook's Open Graph

Want to really understand Facebook's Open Graph? Here's a way to do it quickly. Go to the just-launched site LikeButton.me, which aggregates activity by Facebook users all over prominent Web sites, and do the following:

  1. Enter the site without being logged onto Facebook. (Remember, you don't have to Facebook actually "up" on your browser to be logged in. If in doubt, close out of your browser and re-open it.)
  2. After you've studied the site, which contains boxes tallying how many people shared different bits of content on major sites such as CNN and YouTube, log in to Facebook.
  3. Go back and watch the Likebutton.me page. It will begin to populate the page with data on what your Facebook friends shared on those sites.
To give people who read this post a visual idea of how this works, I've posted two pictures here showing recent activity on the site of the TED conference. One screenshot is a "before" picture, depicting what it looked like before I logged onto Facebook; it gives blind data of what content from the site has been shared lately.

The second shows what happened after I logged onto Facebook. You'll see that, in the second shot, the page displays that my Facebook friend David Griner recently shared an item called "Michael Specter: The danger of science denial." LikeButton.me also allows you to add in custom sites, though if the site you're interested in hasn't added in Facebook's social plugins, it probably won't tell you anything.

LikeButton.me's turbo-charged demonstration of Facebook's Open Graph does leave me wondering how much of this personalized information any of us really wants to know. Sure, I become somewhat more interested in content when other people I trust have looked at it. But am I really going to chase my social media tail as it were, whiling away the hours clicking on links that were shared by my (admittedly large) cohort of Facebook friends?

The Facebook Open Graph is with us to stay -- and technologically, it's amazing -- but it's unclear to me, at this writing, how much of this personalized information is news you can use versus news you can easily excuse.

(Side note: So far, I haven't been able to figure out who built the site. However, though I'm no engineer, these plug-ins are so easy to use it probably didn't kill someone's weekend to make it.)

Previous coverage of Facebook's Open Graph at BNET Media: