Heard In An Twitter Post

      Thinking that i don’t like the term ‘social graph’.

Me too. What’s up with that? Why can’t Facebook people call it a social network? How exactly is a database of people and who they know a graph?

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Andrew Parker

    It refers to graph as in the CS data structure graph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…It’s actually a perfect representation of a social map or network. nodes are people and edges are relationships.Most intro CS students balk at this use of the word “graph” when they first learn it, but eventually they come around on it.

  2. Alex Iskold

    Graph is a mathematical term for a network. I think its confusing to change the name. Why not stick with network, thats’ what we’ve been calling it. We just need to call it common or cross-site or web-wide social network.

  3. Ferdinand Magellan

    Network and graph are completely interchangable, the reason programmers prefer graph is they know what it means in this context and it confuses users. Good for you Fred for questioning this.

  4. Luke Kanies

    I’m a sysadmin-turned-developer, and I’m just now recovering from using bad graphing terminology. I’d been using ‘tree’ where I should have been using ‘graph’, and now that I’m using ‘graph’ I find a whole new world of functionality and understanding is available to me. There’s software I can download that uses the same terms, and everything suddenly clicks into a clean, shared model of what I’m interacting with.The terminology around ‘social network’ is pretty crappy. You have the ‘network’, you, and your ‘connections’. It’s very difficult to, say, build a meaningful, sensible API based on these terms. How do we talk about finding the shortest path between two nodes in the graph? How do we talk about exporting some subset of the graph? How many links out do we go?OTOH, with graphs it’s wicked easy — you’ve got vertices, edges between vertices, literally hundreds of published algorithms for interacting with those graphs using already-standardized terminology, and lots of software you can download today and use to interact with these graphs. The catch is that every piece of graphing software uses exactly the same terminology, but the social networking people use their own custom, non-technical terms.I think the whole Web 2.0 community can agree that common terminology is critical — AJAX and the phrase ‘web 2.0’ have, just by being common terms, enabled lots of great stuff. Facebook is building public APIs, and everyone who uses that API has to use the same set of terms. It makes a ton more sense to use the entire existing set of terms around graphs, and get rid of the vague and essentially meaningless term ‘network’, than to try to come up with equivalent terms for ‘social network’.I am convinced that there’s no way we’ll ever have interoperable social networking sites without shared terminology, and it’s much easier to use existing, albeit not perfect, terminology than to create our own. I might question the wisdom of using the term publicly, rather than just keeping it to their APIs, but I think it’s probably a very good move in the end. Certainly I’d love to see all the new social networking startups come out of the gate with better terminology, and I’d love to see people start throwing around ‘edge’ and ‘induced graph’ like they now throw out terms like IP Address and DNS.

  5. Hank Williams

    Yeah, the term graph really is the right term for what it is. Of course in lay terms it is of course a social network, but this has less meaning to those that might seek to do something with the “graph”. The first time I heard the expression, it became much more significant to me than a social network. A graph means nodes (people) and their connections (edges) and what’s interesting is that we can apply mathematical formulas and algorithms to the graph. We can weight the edges based on the strength or type of connection. Real world implications of treating a social network as a graph are really quite significant because there has been lots of work done on graph theory that is or could be directly applicable. This excites people like me!

  6. chris

    What most people call a “graph” is really a “plot” – you know, it often has an X and a Y axis, it plots a function, such as profits over time, etc. As others have commented, “graph” is a more accurate description.

  7. Madas Elle

    Then what’s “Graphing” in this context? What a dumb question. But seriously, I, like most people(i think) view the use of the “social network” as “Networking”. It ties nicely and “we” get it. I studied CS and Math, so I can understand the appeal of the term graph — but before we give a math lesson to the majority of social network users, who by the way hated math in high school, lets think about keeping these concepts “simple” as well as meaningful. I must say, “Network” was a nice upgrade from “Group”… oops another math term.

  8. Jay Parkhill

    “Graph” seems a little wonky and abstract. It doesn’t seem to have caught on- I’ve more commonly heard people talking about the “social map” to describe interpersonal relationship.”Social network” is more accurate, but it has turned into shorthand for “social networking platform”.In other words, it’s all about trying to distinguish an individual’s set of contacts from the applications on which they connect. You’ve talked about this a bunch- interesting that people are having trouble finding the right words to differentiate the two.

  9. petekazanjy

    Graph is the right term. There are many “social networks,” which term has become the term of art, in English, for a website that utilizes social relationships to help it do things better (like share pictures, or whatever).However, when Facebook and other use the term “social graph,” it is my understanding that they are referring to the whole set of relationships in the world, of which they have mapped some.So, when Zuckerberg, or whoever, says “we want to help people communicate and share things better, do things that they like to do more easily and more efficiently, using the social graph” he is referring the set of relationships that exists in the world, which Facebook is a logical surfacing of.If they said “We want to help people do things they like to do better, using the social network” it would be confusing, in that it wouldn’t be clear if they were talking about their social network, another social network, or what have you.More on this in Barabassi’s “Linked” and Yochai Benkler’s “The Wealth of Networks.””Social graph” is the right term. “Social Network” as a phrase has been ruined by the news media and MySpace.

  10. michael ossareh

    it’s a graph – cs term. I had the fun experience of learning this on the job last xmas 🙂 graph navigation is the perfect recursion exercise – imagine the recursion algorithm’s in the facebook stack – pretty neat if you ask me (though I think they’re only doing one level away from you most of the time)

  11. Robert Seidman

    this falls into the “who cares” category for me. Yet somehow I expect this will be a popular/controversial topic in the blogsphere for some time to come and trying to be a better capitalist I went to see if socialgraph.com was available. It wasn’t, so I did the WhoIs lookup and guess who owns it? Duh. Facebook!If media coverage is any indicator, Facebook mojo definitely seems to be waxing rather than waning. I think we’re all going to have to suck it up and live with “social graph” for at least a while.

  12. vruz

    Graph is a perfect CS term for a networked kind of data structure.Since the word “network” can be anything from CNN to Al-Qaeda, it may be a good idea to disambiguate, especially when the Facebook system is becoming more sort-of a distributed application, with portions residing on third-parties’ servers.The FB graph is more of an abstract nature: relationship between nodes (users data) which conceptually bears no relationship to networked apps.So the term “graph” is accurate, unambiguous and understandable by developers.Could be better in the sales and marketing department, so why don’t specialists in the field jump in to propose a suitable translation into marketspeak ?

  13. Joshua Allen [msft]

    Yes, graph is the most appropriate term. Graph and network are not really interchangable — “network” is often used as a verb, and the term “graph” emphasizes the data structure. Data is the new platform.

  14. Michael Chui

    It takes a peculiar brand of geekiness to prefer the term “social graph” to “social network”. Social networks are things that normal people do; social graphs are their representation in a computer. Anyone who thinks that their social network is well-represented in a computer is living a shallow life.

  15. NetworkGrapher

    Welcome to Computer Science 101.