What is a Social Graph?



The social graph is a concept. It is not a traditional graph so to speak, but a data structure. According to Mark Zuckerberg the CEO of Facebook, “It draws an edge between you and the people, places, and things you interact with online.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/explainer-what-exactly-is-the-social-graph-2012-3)

For example, if two or more individuals enjoy skydiving, then this common interest forms a network among those who share the passion for the sport, forming an “edge” or as I like to refer to it, “the spark” between you and other people who share this special interest. On Facebook, to “like” something is the connection point that forms the edge, which ultimately bridges you to people, places, and other things of shared interests.

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In 2011, Facebook developers expanded on their social graph by implementing The Open Social Graph into their social media networking site. The concept is rather simple, the Open Social Graph as a program through the mechanism of Facebook’s API, connects other outside websites and blogs with that of Facebook, and “It does this by seeing you as a user, identifying an action (whatever you are doing), and then publishing it as an object.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/explainer-what-exactly-is-the-social-graph-2012-3)


Basically, everything you do online is now identified on Facebook and in turn it is opening the possibility for more “network” connections and associations by the integration of all social graphs on one platform. This way when you like a Facebook page or a website that has a Facebook “like” icon, you have now opened yourself up to be associated with other users who have liked those particular websites. New associations are created and your social network has expanded!



Although to me, however way you dice it, you are to some degree sacrificing your own person and forfeiting more of your privacy as a citizen. With the integration of all your online activity into an Open Social Graph, you are inadvertently creating a unique but rather explicit profile of your identity as a person. Essentially you become an “open book” on this more expansive social graph that labels your identity and illustrates your personality with more precision then the conventional relational graph that exists. Should we not reserve ourselves? Are we not positioning a target on our backs for more prodding and solicitation by marketers, surveyors, and government officials that we don’t know about? How much information are you willing to put out there? My worry for my society is, that we have become too complacent with giving away much of ourselves to others, that eventually there will be nothing left to call our own because some entity or another now “OWNS THE RIGHTS TO US”…so to speak.

Below is a link to an article titled: 7 Big Privacy Concerns for New Facebook and the Open Graph, which I found very telling and insightful.


Yet to be frank, in some ways I am conflicted, because I also understand the modern world I live in and the status quo of a society that for the moment, has me bound by it. To explain my point, if I want to advance myself and have the opportunities to further my education, career, and world experience, then in many ways I have to compromise with a majority of the world that is “interconnected” through a rapidly growing technological web and make peace with it. It is likely, in the future, I could have a request by a potential employer for a link to my Facebook page which exposes my Social Graph that is linked to many more content and associations through the Open Social Graph program and that makes me a transparent candidate. So is this so bad? Probably to some extent, but not all the way through I guess. So yes I am conflicted, because I also see the benefits of the Open Social Graph as pointed by Jeff Korhan, on socialmediaexaminer.com, “Social networks are all about context. Whom you associate with tells a great deal about you. Context not only tells us who you are, but by associations and comparisons, who you are not. You may be very similar to colleagues you associate with, but there is enough data to discern a difference. That association may be what helps you to be discovered, but it is the distinction that will get you hired.” You have the ability to distinguish yourself from competition and attract the attention of future employer. (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/what-your-business-needs-to-know-about-social-graphs/)

I also see the benefits it affords businesses , like marketing, when it comes to relating a particular product or brand with a target consumer. The Open Social Graph exposes a “Speaking Consciousness” which can illustrate to a marketer the emerging trends and the wants and dislikes of the consumer they are surveying on social media platforms. With the aid of the Open Social Graph, businesses can therefore eliminate the clutter of guessing or surmising the interests of a group or individual solely on one social graph. By virtue of this, a brand developer across the board, doesn’t need to spend as much money on advertising, because they now achieved a three dimensional aspect in their research through the use of the Open Social Graph, of their potential target consumer. For businesses, the Open Social Graph can be a cost effective and an economically sound base system, which aid their efforts.

As it is common in the culture of technology, new forms of facilitating information through transcription and transference is always on the precipice of innovation and change. It was no surprise therefore, for the developers of Facebook and their engineers to have adapted and “…shifted away from a relational database model to one more supportive of a graph that needs to stay consistent and support tons of reads.” (https://gigaom.com/2013/06/25/how-facebook-matured-its-data-structure-and-stepped-into-the-graph-world/) To reference Emil Eifrem, the founder of Neo4j and CEO of Neo Technology, models for relational databases more or less behaved like columns and rows that represented different variables, whereas now, models for graph databases can be seen as “nodes” that share a relationship and key value properties linked to those nodes, which in turn builds a network.

And because Facebook’s previous infrastructure for storing and accessing users’ data was then supported by Memcached for in-memory caching and MySQL for continual storage were no longer an efficient method of functionality, they switched gears from a relational database that was MySQL to a graph database that is now TAO (The Associations and Objects). This new transitioning meant the ability to have more storage space and to quote dan1111,“…Storing all of the relationships at the individual-record level only makes sense if there is going to be a lot of variation in the relationships; otherwise you are just duplicating the same things over and over. This means that graph databases are well-suited to irregular, complex structures.” (http://stackoverflow.com/questions/13046442/comparision-of-relational-databases-and-graph-databases) The TAO system is a multi-petabyte data store for its social graph and it runs on thousands of machines. It can deal with over a billion reads per second across a data set of many petabytes and according to Facebook, Tao was designed to better link together data kept in its main data store (MySQL) and caching layer (memcache), while being able to deal with unpredictable queries on objects. So, it basically deals with the workload Facebook experiences. Another thing of note: Facebook still operates with the 1800 servers dedicated to MySQL and 805 servers dedicated to memcache, as the TAO system works in tangent with it.

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