Why the Social Graph API is not ready for prime time

So I saw announcements for the release of the Social Graph API from Google and figured this was one of the first Open Social releases. Well, I was wrong about the Open Social part. The API uses the XFN and FOAF specifications to determine your social graph. Your social graph for a particular site (maybe LinkedIn) is anyone that you are “publicly” connected to. This problem has been bothering me ever since I started playing with the social network and social media sites. So, I decided to play with the API. Google has some tools to show how things work as well. The most important demo they have is the Parameter Playground. This page allows you to enter the URL to look at and adjust the parameters for the API call.

After playing with the tool, I must say that I am not overly impressed. I figured a good test would be to look at my connections for a few sites that I frequent. My test sites were Mixx, LinkedIn, MyBlogLog, and StumbleUpon. The Social Graph API is meant to show you connections into your profile and connections out of your profile. The failure of the API is that there is significant inconsistencies from the sites in terms of what they report. Mixx showed all of your public followers, or connections in, but no fans, or connections out. LinkedIn only showed what are called “me” pages. The “me” pages are those pages that you own and appear on your profile. StumbleUpon also showed the “me” pages and one connection into my profile, only a reference from the MyBlogLog profile. No contacts were visible within StumbleUpon. Because MyBlogLog contains references to your other social media and social network profiles, it showed those connections out from the MyBlogLog profile. However, no connections were found within MyBlogLog.

Based on this quick sample I would say that the Social Graph API suffers from lack of support. Obviously, I did not include a large group of sites, but LinkedIn and StumbleUpon should have been good tests for large sites. The API also does not seem to recursively traverse your social graph. So, you could not find friends of friends using a single call of the API. The other failure I can see right now is what do we use this for? If the data was there, I could see a user getting a full picture of their entire social graph across multiple social sites. But that is the only use I can foresee right now, outside of referral advertising of course.

Are there any uses that are obvious to you?