Is Open Graph Protocol dead?


Facebook Meta - like many other tech titans - has institutional Shiny Object Syndrome. It goes something like this:

  1. Launch a product to great fanfare
  2. Spend a few years hyping it as ✨the future✨
  3. Stop answering emails and pull requests
  4. If you're lucky, announce that the product is abandoned but, more likely, just forget about it.

Open Graph Protocol (OGP) is one of those products. The value-proposition is simple.

  • It's hard for computers to pick out the main headline, image, and other data from a complex web page.
  • Therefore, let's encourage websites to include metadata which tells our services what they should look at!

OGP works pretty well! When you share a link on Facebook, or Twitter, or Telegram - those services load the website in the background, look for OGP metadata, and display a friendly snippet.

Facebook Meta were the driving force behind OGP - and have now left it to fester.

Is OGP finished?

And, that might be fine. Facebook Meta are a small company with limited resources. They can't afford to fund standards work indefinitely. And, anyway, OGP is complete, right? It has all the tags that anyone could ever possibly want. Why does it need any improving?

Well, that's not the case. We know, for example, that Twitter have created their own proprietary OGP-like meta tags. Similarly, Pinterest have their own as well. And even Google are going their own way with Rich Snippets.

This is annoying for developers. Now we have to write multiple different bits of metadata if we want our links to be supported on all platforms.

Standards work is never "finished". Developers want to add new features. Users want to interact with new forms of content.

Tomorrow someone is going to invent a way to share smells over the Internet. How does that get represented in an Open Graph Protocol compliant manner?

<meta property="twitter:olfactory" content="C₃H₆S"> or
<meta property="facebook:nose" content="InChIKey/MWOOGOJBHIARFG-UHFFFAOYSA-N"> or
<meta property="og:smell" content="pumpkin spice"> or...

We know from bitter experience that having several mutually incompatible ways to implement something is a nightmare for developers and provides a poor user-experience.

So we create standards bodies. They're not perfect, but a group of interested folks can do the hard work to try and satisfy oppositional stakeholders.

This is my plea to Facebook Meta. If you're no longer interested in improving OGP, OK. You do you. But hand it over to people who want to keep this going. Maybe it's the W3C, or IndieWeb, or Schema.org or someone. Hell, I'm not busy, I'll take it on.

Remember, if you love something, let it go.


6 thoughts on “Is Open Graph Protocol dead?

  1. @Edent Good post - I do worry about the point at which the mutlitiude of OGP like layers on my blog in the header becomes more than the body on average 🙁 Hugo templates hide all this from me, but when I do occasionally have to look at the head section on any of my pages I shudder a little.

  2. There are two dimensions to consider: (1) the usage or adoption of a specification and (2) the specification being actively developed or not.

    I'd argue that (1) matters a LOT more than (2). I'd also argue that a specification not being actively developed can be an important feature, and not a bug.

    For example, I love that RSS has remained unchanged for two decades. I'm glad that RSS is not more actively developed, or it might have fumbled.

    OGP has somewhat failed as a tool for building out complex metadata graphs, but we have Schema.org for that.

    And I like how OGP won as a tool to enhance simple link sharing. OGP is supported by iMessage, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and more. In aggregate, OGP might be used over a billion times a day.

    I'd rename 'Open Graph Protocol' to 'Social Link Sharing Protocol' (SLSP), reduce its scope, and pretty much freeze the existing specification. It could be good at one thing: enhancing simple link sharing.

  3. Sam Allen says:

    It's rather useful for those in-page "microbrowsers" as well. It works great in (cough) Wikipedia, and seeing this as a web standard could be big.

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