June 29, 2007
I occasionally get requests to join private social networking sites, like LinkedIn or Facebook. I always politely decline. I understand the appeal of private social networking, and I mean no disrespect to the people who send invites. But it's just not for me.
I feel very strongly that we already have the world's best public social networking tool right in front of us: it's called the internet. Public services on the web, such as blogs, twitter, flickr, and so forth, are what we should invest our time in. And because it's public, we can leverage the immense power of internet search to tie it all-- and each other-- together.
In comparison, adding content to a private, walled garden on the internet smacks of the old-world America Online ideology:
While at Sony in 1994, I was sent to Virginia to learn how to build a Sony "app" on AOL (the #3 online service, behind Compuserve & Prodigy at the time) using AOL's proprietary "rainman" platform. Fast forward to Facebook 2007 and see similarities: If you want access to their big base of users, develop something in their proprietary language for their people who live in their walled garden.
It was so clear to me back in 1999 that AOL was doomed. But at the time, any criticism of AOL was heresy. For a lot of companies, AOL was the internet. You had to accommodate AOL users in your web design and business decisions because of their immense user base and perceived power. Ten years later, is AOL is even relevant? Does anyone care?
The lesson I take from this is that no matter how wonderful your walled garden is, it can't compete with the public, open internet. Jason Kottke explains:
As it happens, we already have a platform on which anyone can communicate and collaborate with anyone else, individuals and companies can develop applications which can interoperate with one another through open and freely available tools, protocols, and interfaces. It's called the internet and it's more compelling than AOL was in 1994 and Facebook in 2007. Eventually, someone will come along and turn Facebook inside-out, so that instead of custom applications running on a platform in a walled garden, applications run on the internet, out in the open, and people can tie their social network into it if they want, with privacy controls, access levels, and alter-egos galore.
Jason Kottke's equating of Facebook to AOL is intended to provoke. You might even say it's incendiary. But it's absolutely true, and a much-needed wakeup call. Have we really forgotten the lesson of AOL's walled garden so soon?
Faced with competition from this open web, AOL lost. Running a closed service with custom content and interfaces was no match for the wild frontier of the web. Maybe if they'd done some things differently, they would have fared better, but they still would have lost. In competitive markets, open and messy trumps closed and controlled in the long run. Everything you can do on Facebook is possible using a loose coalition of blogging software, IM clients, email, Twitter, Flickr, Google Reader, etc. Sure, it's not as automatic or easy, but anyone can participate. The number of things to see and do on the web outnumbers the number of things you can see and do on Facebook by several orders of magnitude -- and always will.
Facebook is an intranet for you and your friends that just happens to be accessible without a VPN. If you're not a Facebook user, you can't do anything with the site. Nearly everything published by their users is private. Google doesn't index any user-created information on Facebook. All of the significant information and, more importantly, interaction still happens in private. Maybe we shouldn't be so excited about the web's future moving onto an intranet.
If you want to join my friends list, let's do it in public. Post a link to one of my blog entries. Enter a comment right here. Reply to one of my tweets. Send me an email or an instant message. I'll even collaborate with you, as long as it results in a public artifact of some kind.
Just don't ask me to enter your private walled garden. There's no future in it.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I'm kinda glad I've Inever looked at/i Facebook.
Hell, I've never used twitter, or looked at someone's twitter stuff, except glancing over a coworker's shoulder.
(I avoid MySpace like the plague it is, but that's mostly because of the quality of the content and the unavoidable music spew from every page. And yes, I know there's a pref to turn it off. No, it doesn't work for me. Anywhere.)
People are interested in this stuff, though, right?
Thing is, LinkedIn is not meant to be a social networking tool so far as I can tell. It's meant to be a professional networking tool. Which means the open internet argument is not applicable, because you don't want too much openness (if you'll pardon the rather underhanded sound to that expression). Otherwise, you spend all your time acting as a filter trying to tell genuine job offers and resumes from spam. In fact, it's that spam that's driving the rush towards those walled garden models - it's not the garden people are interested in, it's the walls.
I do see what you guys are saying. But even though "using a loose coalition of blogging software... anyone can participate", the majority of people haven't.
When I say "the majority of people", I mean people who don't generally think of computers as fun machines. People who just aren't particularly interested in computers.
And I'm also totally guessing - it could be that more people have a blog/a Flickr account/a Twitter account than don't.
But I doubt it. Most of the people who've contacted me through Facebook would never have set up a blog. Most of them would think Flickr horribly limited because they can't tag their friends in photos. Of course, technically they can, because Flickr lets you tag any photo with any string, so you can tag it with someone else's Flickr username or some other commonly-used identifier, and it's pretty much the same thing. But Flickr doesn't provide the little box to indicate who's who, and it doesn't have a drop-down prompting users to pick out one of their friends to tag.
I'm not saying Facebook's going to be more successful than a loosely-joined collection of more open small pieces, but I think it's genuinely meeting the needs of people who aren't geeky, i.e. most people.
This is one of the reasons that I've always avoided Facebook and MySpace. I always said that the real internet is better, and that I can do anything there that I can do on those sites.
I think the popularity of Facebook is, as previously alluded to, that it allows you to do things, create content and generally put stuff out there without needing to commit to a regular blog (twitter), though if you want to you can create more meaty content (blogs), it allows you to tell the world about yourself (bio pages), message people (email), manage your contacts (contact book) and find old friends (friendsreunited). It combines so many services into one easy to use place. It allows people to easily create content and share information. However, because it is in a centralise place the individual components don't appear to be so lost (people are bad at updating content that feels lost to them).
However, I don't think Jeff was really questioning the merits of centralising the components. It's more that, in order to see anyone's random comments, blogs and messages you have to sign up. Even if you just want to read something someone wrote that someone said was interesting. Once.
Myself, I can't decide what is best. The problem is that for the sort of content that goes on Facebook the closed model works well. There are far too many privicy and consential issues otherwise. However, many people use Facebook far beyond the mundane such that it is their primary presence on the Internet. You ask for someone's website, they'll give you their Facebook (or MySpace or Beebo address).
I myself have a split. I have my public blog that anyone can read and (I think) participate. And then I have my Facebook for handling the social aspects of the Internet (messaging friends, organising events etc.) The two do meet, but their roles are clearly defined. If you ask for my website, I would point you to my blog. That is my primary presence on the Internet.
However, as previously mentioned, for most people Facebook or similar is. For a lot of them this is because they do not have the time or inclination to put together a more structured public presence. They don't necessarily want to. They want to muck around with their friends, they want to moan to them about their terrible day or share their latest conquests. They want to poke them incessantly and throw sheep at them. They don't need to have a public presence with thought provoking posts that everyone can read.
But sometimes they do. Sometimes they do have good things to share, but because they are so used to the culture of Facebook it never sees light outside the walls of the garden. And that's a shame.
I agree with Mark in the first response.
"Google doesn't index any user-created information on Facebook."
I don't really want google indexing personal information about me, my friends or any of the rubbish we talk to each other on social networking sites.. Call it tin-foil hat if you like, but privacy on t'internet is increasingly difficult to find. And im sure you've all read about Facebooks searching problems..
I'm sure there will be an open alternative within a few years. but currently there isn't. There's no point missing out just because it won't last. With that kind of philosophy you'll never try out anything. Sure, don't invest too much into these walled-gardens, but you may as well see what all the fuss is about.
Anyway these kinds of services often pioneer, and then later get cloned into more open services. I think frankly, we need them.
Don't know if you've heard of mugshot, but it's exactly what you're describing. It aggregates information from any number of social-networking-esque sites. It was started by a bunch of smart hackers from Red Hat (Havoc Pennington has been an outspoken voice on the project). Anyways, check it out, mugshot.org. :)
I think when it comes right down to it, most people want a measure of privacy.
Plus, the majority of people like having all their tools in one single place. That's why people are addicted to MySpace and Facebook... you really don't need to learn anything else to share your life with your friends.
Personally I abhor all social networking sites... but then, I'm a geek.
I am not so worried about walled gardens on the internet in general, it's the mobile carriers that worry me. The charge per KB, filter per port, and make their own walled gardens free. People are just blindly walking into it. And within a few years, most people will be using some sort of portable device for internet access, maybe as their primary device.
I have avoided social networks for a while too, finding they didn't offer much - that was until I checked out Facebook.
There is much merit in what you have said but are you comparing apples with apples. Online cultures have changed since 1994. 1994 was early-days for social networking. Today there are many and this choice is beneficial. While some are happy to publically network others may be tired of the online instrusion and prefer a more closed personal network with just your family and friends. Loic Le Meur claims there is a shift in the way we interact with others online. In the beginning there was a rush to publically network, now there is more of a trend to hide and only netowrk with a smaller network of people. People are different and have different networking needs.
So if there are "public parks" or "walled gardens", it doesn't matter. There are enough users online to make either flourish. What's more immportant is there are the choices.
You've got an interesting opinion, but for those who are in college, it's the best way to keep in touch with friends and have a bit of fun while doing it. Yeah, it might be a walled garden, but if all of your friends are there collaborating, and it's free, does it really matter?
I think I see a failure in Jeff's argument in principle, rather than based on any particular instance. Walled gardens, such as Facebook or LinkedIn provide essential mechanisms that the broader internet lacks.
Each networking site provides a contract of what I will find there. For example, I know I can go to LinkedIn to find jobs as a job-seeker or employees as an employee. I will not go to linkedIn to find dates... If I go to a photo-rating site such as hotornot.com (not that I endorse that type entertainment), I know exactly what I will and will not find there. And may go to find former classmates and exchange photos with my friends. Thus, by accessing a specific site, I specifically choose which domain of information I want to deal with.
What I will not do in any of the above scenarios is a Google search, because Google will inevitably return the information I do not want. Why would I go looking through blogs if I want to find employees, when there is no clear, fast way to determine from a blog what specialty you're in, what your experience is like, and even if you are looking for a job - to find any information of that sort, visual parsing would be involved. And if I'm a bored high-schooler who just wants to rate photos, I just don't see how a broadly-defined search, such as one that Google offers could crawl the internet for all photo postings that invite ratings. Simply put, different domains of information require specific semantics for dealing with that information, and the broader internet has not been designed to provide them.
This is actually somewhat reminiscent of the WS-* vs. REST debates. Yes, the latter is more open, and can be accessible to non-specialized clients. But the former enforces stronger contracts that allow you to derive more value by specializing your semantics to the domain you're dealing with. So as far as facebook and linkedIn are concerned, perhaps if all these sights were to collaborate on creating a common "schema", for lack of a better word, for social networking entries including domain information (i.e. is this a looking-for-a-job entry, a rate-my-photo entry, a looking-for-alumni entry), then a mega-mashup service could be created to search for information on all the sites with virtually zero irrelevant information or noise. But plain-old openness and Googles searches just aren't that useful.
For most people, creating a page on a social network is much easier than, and very different from, creating a blog or a site. Relationships are explicit, so you can see chains of relationships between people. What you also get is a kind of auto-updating address book...
Maybe there's room here for a system that defines relationships between blogs (foaf, microformats?), but currently, a blog/website serves a different purpose than an entry on a social network.
well its clear that you havnt joined any social networking sites :)
first, they dont serve the same purpose as blogs or websites. its not really a question about open or closed.
secondly, i use these (as do most people) to keep in touch with friends i already know, but who for various reasons i am no longer able to meet personally. the idea is not really to meet new people (at least not for me). in this sense i want the closedness (thts not a real word is it?)
Send me an email or an instant message. I'll even collaborate with you, as long as it results in a public artifact of some kind.
Your emails and IMs are public artifacts? ORLY?
There are certain facts about that I don't want to be public, but am quite happy to share with my friends. Facebook allows me to do this efficiently. The wider internet loses nothing, because I was never going to post there anyway.
I guess time will tell whether Facebook will outlast the internet (my money's on the net), but I really doubt the AOL analogy applies for a couple of important reasons:
1) It's not trying to be what AOL was trying to be, namely an alternate internet. It's focus is specific, even though it can be used for many things, including blogging.
2) As for being walled, please keep in mind that it is (at this time) free to join and the value inside is considered higher than your usual one-off Times article.
I recommend, just for laughs an giggles, that you open an account just to see for yourself what the heck the appeal might be. Warning, the app's pretty slick (as far as these things go); highly addictive.
See you on the inside.
Jeff, I have to disagree with your viewpoint this time. When I sign into google, or iGoogle or whatever, I see it as a tool. A tool to search, to send emails, participate in groups, read blogs and so forth. I use it only when I need to. Every time I sign into facebook, I see new events such as my friends having gotten married. I feel like I'm part of a community, not some abstract internet. This is very addictive, and it creates a whole new level of "visitor loyalty" that sites like Google simply don't have.
This is a psychological phenomenon. A game site that just lets you play against other people is OK, but you don't use it too much unless you're addicted to the game. A game site where you can join a community has you wasting hours and hours on it.
I think you should try the experience, then you'd appreciate the addictiveness that "social networks" have. You can't really have a complete opinion of it solely from the outside, if you've never taken part. But be warned -- once you do, we may see a slightly less blogs from you :)
That said, having any kind of signup creates a "walled garden"... why do I have to sign up with every single freakin' site? It's annoying to keep track of all those signups and password combinations... which can lead to a nice blog entry in itself :)
At what point can you break down the social networking walls to nothing? Wouldn't the only way be if we all had our own customly created websites, rather than through some 3rd party? So we could make everything public all in one package without being bounded by the creative restrictions on all blogging apps?
I've always declined invitations as well but at this point of time I feel social networking sites in general are a good thing, because really the internet is a unorganised mess. Staying connected can be hard, and remember... people are idiots. Facebook just makes it easy to connect. The problem I now find is that there are too many Facebook's, to connect you've got to have accounts in Facebook, Bebo, WAYN, Friendster...
I've seen websites like Mugshot come and go, but the early sites were technical to set up and unknown to the masses. Though it is a step in the right direction, it just needs to be easy enough to use for the simple minded masses.
I agree with your argument to some extent, but it simply comes down to usability. Sure, as a web-savvy computer geek, I could go get my own hosting, set up a blog, set up a photo gallery, maybe code my own shoutbox in PHP, etc, and use the internet to let people interact with me publicly. But the average everyday user isn't going to know how to do this in a million years. Facebook takes all of those things and aggregates them into one coherent application and makes it easy to use, so that _anyone_ can use it without the least bit of technical know-how. This is why Facebook isn't doomed.
Also, if Facebook wasn't a walled garden, at least providing some sense of privacy, nobody would use it because simply sharing all kinds of information about yourself on the wide-open web is pretty scary for most people. People want to be able to control this access, and Facebook provides this.
hey sucker, everyone thinks you're wrong
One tipping factor is spam. For many people, checking their email has gone from being a positive experience ("let's see who wrote to me today") to a negative experience ("better go clean the spam out of my inbox").
While this may change with FaceBook given that they're "opening up" their platform, today, if I have something in my Inbox on FaceBook, it's a real message from a real friend. There's some serious value in that.
Finally, somebody just said it. And I mean Jeff, not the rest of you. :-)
What a bunch of little girls.
I'll be they have petty squabbles, form up teams, and a bunch run off to start a new hive around a newly elected "queen" every 3 to 6 months too.
People go where their friends are (especially kids who are the main users of many of these sites), and, crucially, with what they know about.
This was true for AOL and it's true for Facebook/MySpace/Linkedin/Livejournal/DeviantArt/etc.. You need to gather a lot of knowlege from disparate sources and do some hacking in code and on the server if you want to replicate the features that those sites provide immediately.
I only go along with LinkedIn because from time to time I bet on following the masses.
But I do not particularly care for the site whatsoever.
To illustrate the point : one of my recommendations is from Bill Lumbergh.
Your argument that blog/websites can/should replace tools like facebook is a ridiculous one. Say I have 400 "friends" (yeah, sure, I probably don't care about half of those people). No one is going to try and "index" each and every site from 400 people. And then trying to visit 400 sites in a day? Sheesh. Besides, look at livejournal... blogs are 99% worthless information.
Facebook on the other hand allows those 400 people to quickly see me and I them. All at one domain. And some of the features work more like a friend RSS feed. (When I broke up with my girlfriend, I had 3 people call me the next day thanks to facebook... good or bad I thought that was fascinating). I've also been invited to 3 wedding of people I care about but don't see very often. Those people probably would not have tried to search the vast interwebs to find my personal website in hopes of getting my contact information.
Any tool that helps people stay in touch with friends is okay in my book. It's not really social networking as in new friends but social network maintainance.
I thought these things were silly and for kids until I tried Facebook about a month ago. It's really a well done application, and is a great way to quickly check in on people. It's about convenience and getting things done. Blogs are different beasts entirely. There's no way that you personally could scale to the # of readers that you have on your blog - it's much more of a publishing medium aka newspaper + letters to the editor than a social networking tool.
I agree with much of this post. However, there are some, such as LastISawYou.com that help friends, parents, families, etc. find each other again, particularly when first name and/or last name are not known. Some of these do provide a service.
Humans are tribal and like to mark out territories. The social networking sites are just one more way of doing these things. Owing to constraints on my time, I appreciate the ease of use of these services, so my thanks to all you mysterious coders who have done the work already, enabling me to get on with what I need to do.
**Durrr. If you have to sign up to see anything then it is not public. Imagine if you had to sign up to blogger to read blogs, or to wikipedia to read articles. It is all well and good using it if you want to keep your info tightly controlled, but for people who are using it for open, social reasons then it is counter-productive.**
I disagree. If it's freely available to the public, which facebook and linkedin are, it is absolutely a public service. Something private would be where you have to pay a fee to use services. Facebook, like flikr and blogs, is totally free for users.
Also, please explain why I need or want someone (for example, you) to be capable of seeing my personal information? In what odd, alternate reality does you seeing my personal information constitute a "social reason" to have facebook be open? And how is it counter-productive that you can't see my personal information?
Answer: it isn't. I neither want to have a social bond with you, nor would I want you to be able to browse my personal information.
Using facebook or linked in is pretty simple: you're trading your personal information for the services provided by the two sites.
Many times, i'd tried many social network. But at least, it's nothing to me, i found nothing from it. look like, I just tested new site, new interface, it was my curious.
Thanks for the post
I'm really not sure if I get what you're trying to say. That limiting applications to a scripting language rather than turning over mounds of private data to whoever wants to write their own code is bad? That attempting to supplement -- not replace -- the internet is doomed to failure? That flickr and twitter are a good ideas, but putting them together in is a bad idea?
Help me out here. Back when facebook was hard to join, you might have had a point; now that it takes less effort than signing up for email, I'm really not sure where you're going with this.
When given a blank piece of paper and told to do anything with it, people block. They can't think of anything. Give them some constraints, a place in their mind for bubbles of thought to form.
A completely open internet is a blank piece of paper. A "Walled Garden" can get people thinking so they can create new and interesting things.
Walled Gardens may be dead ends after all is said and done, but they're *so necessary* for creativity, we keep creating them over and over.
I heard the hype about facebook and decided to take a look. Then I discovered I would have to sign up to even see anything at all. Yeah right. Same with "become my friend to read my blog". Why the hell should I have to sign up to anything to read a blog or look at someone's profile?
Social networking sites are for morons. I have no qualms in saying that at all. If someone is my "friend" they can give me their email address or skype id. I do not need a list of all my friends. If I need a list to remember who my friends are then there is something very wrong with my definition of that word.
**Public services on the web, such as blogs, twitter, flickr, and so forth, are what we should invest our time in.**
What makes you think facebook isn't public? This seems like a very nitpicky distinction: calling blogs, twitter, and flickr "public" while facebook is somehow "private" makes almost no sense to me at all.
For what it's worth, I love facebook. I've been using it for a few months now, and it's fantastic--it allows me to link with friends and family and keep a tab on what they're doing, where they are, and so on. It's a really great tool.
That being said, I wouldn't ever want it to be public, because it's personal information. I don't want random people on the Internet to know where I live, who my relatives are, what my current phone number is, and so forth. It's private information for totally obvious reasons to anyone who doesn't like having a google search of their name reveal rather personal information.
I also think linkedin fits into the picture quite well; I'm fine with potential employers knowing my job history, educational background, etc, but I'm *not* fine with them contacting friends and relatives, and seeing pictures of me on my family vacation, and so on. So the divide works well: linkedin is business. facebook is personal. Neither of them are even the slightest bit similar to AOL, although you seem to think otherwise.
ok, i've been reading this post for hours staring at the picture and i still can't find waldo... why can't i just get what i want from your system?
Instead of seeing the "walled garden" sites as lock-in models for proprietary data storage, you just have to see them as just an another interface. While you might not have your entire digital life stored in your facebook account, you can still use a facebook account to link up with other more casual-use internet friends and even link them back into your 'own' service.
"What makes you think facebook isn't public? This seems like a very nitpicky distinction: calling blogs, twitter, and flickr "public" while facebook is somehow "private" makes almost no sense to me at all."
Durrr. If you have to sign up to see anything then it is not public. Imagine if you had to sign up to blogger to read blogs, or to wikipedia to read articles. It is all well and good using it if you want to keep your info tightly controlled, but for people who are using it for open, social reasons then it is counter-productive.
We can't say that Internet is the best way for social networking. The best example is Orkut. I had many school mates. When I was doing my Schooling, internet and e-mail was not that popualar in India. and I'm first time operating with a computer in year 2000. I joined for new courses and my home relocated after that I got job which is another place. So I missed them all. Now I could see many of them in Orkut. It was really a nice place to see people the disadvantage is that many people taking advantage of Orkut website by asking some users to join their services and foolishly they're entering user name and password. which cause alot of spam in these days. Now daily I;m getting invitation from Jhoos, Jaxter etc... i rejected all those invitation because I satisfied with Orkut. earlier I spent alot of time for posting things finding new groups. but now it's very less but it's really nice to keep in touch with all of my friends through this wonderful site. some people loves heavy Orkutting. it's depends on the person to decide to waster their time or not with some rubbish scrapping.
My only fear of the "Walled Gardens" like Facebook is that information that should be public will be stuck in a private network. I understand not wanting to share your cell phone number with the open internet, but people are writing content in Facebook "notes" that should be public blogs!
But I must admit I loved moving to a new city, clicking on the city network, and seeing 4 friends who I hadn't spoken with in years that lived in the area. I immediately had people to meet up with in a new city.
Well, you do need a walled garden in case of social networks for privacy's sake. Social networks like Orkut, allow you to block everyone else other than your friends.
Ofcourse, if you meant "Open" as in -
1. Logging in with Open Id,
2. Making API's available for accessing data
it does make sense to open the garden.
I love your work here Jeff, but this time I strongly disagree with you.
Facebook is not walled in the sense that the AOL of old was. AOL was a fee-based service that tried to contain and abstract the web. This is almost similar to a site like Digg. The internet is so large and unwieldy that it helps to have a place to start. The problem with AOL is that they tried to pretend there was nothing outside of AOL. With the explosion of content all over the 'real' internet, people left AOL when they realized they were paying more for less.
Facebook is very different. First of all, it is free. It is not designed to be an aggregation of information, like Wikipedia. Rather, it is intended to be a tool for keeping contact with friends and sharing media. The 'walls' you refer to are not meant to keep people inside for the monetary benefit of Facebook, but to protect it's users from having the fact that they broke up with their girlfriend from being indexed by Google. Facebook users **don't want** the information on Facebook to be in the public domain.
Opening up the API, however, is a brilliant move, because it maintains the safety and ease of use of Facebook while providing added, customizable functionality, at almost no cost to the people who run Facebook.
While it may seem that Facebook photos should be on flickr, and Facebook notes should be on a blog, people generally don't want pictures of their private party indexed for all to see. This not a flaw with Facebook, but an integral component of its success.
Jeff, I couldn't have said this better myself. Excellent post.
I've been plastering my name and my content all over the internet for a decade, but I'm not a member of Facebook because I don't need to be. My content has plenty of other places it can live, and I can control most of them.
I don't develop applications for Facebook because I'd rather spend my time developing applications that will benefit EVERYONE on the internet, not just the fragment that uses Facebook.
The code and content in my website's CMS will be useful long after Facebook becomes MySpace and is overtaken by the next hip social network.
I think you missed the point of the walled garden with facebook... it was able to acheive success because it WAS a walled garden. People put information up there because it is semi-private and they can selectively control who sees what. Facebook integrated these ideas of a blog, twitter, myspace etc and that is why it is successful. I believe that since facebook's new direction is to be more open and public will be it's downfall. If you were actually a member of Facebook I think you would see this.
What about discoverability? How do I find people that I know on the internet? Even if they have a blog there's no guarantee that Google/Yahoo/MSN will consider them "important" enough to own their name?
Kottke clarifies his argument here: a href="http://www.kottke.org/07/07/facebook-vs-aol-redux"http://www.kottke.org/07/07/facebook-vs-aol-redux/a.
Ian hits the nail square on the head. The fact that Facebook is free and generally easy to use makes it completely different from AOL. Sure, you can do all the things you could on Facebook using open platforms, but it's messy, spread across a wide range of disparate programs, and visible to everyone.
There's a reason that people build walls around their gardens at home--they don't want too many people peeping in! Facebook at least lets you control who gets to visit your back yard.
I've found LinkedIn a fantastic way to stay connected to (or reconnect with) people like former coworkers who you maybe like and respect (possibly quite a lot), but who you wouldn't normally maintain frequent regular contact with (or gradually lose touch with) after you've moved on. You know, a buddy in the tranches who you gradually lost track of after he moved away, or the guy you think about every once in a while and wonder how/what he's doing now.
Now some people can easily and naturally do that anyway just with email, etc, but I'm not socially adept enough to maintain regular contacts with a dozens of former coworkers several years after departure. Those people move on as well (and their email addrs change), and there's a better chance that their address in LinkedIn will be current than the one I last used to email a guy 8-12 months ago. Beyond that, the job hunting/recruiting aspects on LinkedIn are just icing, for me. (I do find the occasional invite from strangers a bit odd, though.)
So, for my usage, I don't see how the open internet with blogs, twitter, etc would serve this purpose.
I echo the comments of the folks that have talked about the advantages of the walled garden: Semi-privacy, spam-filtering and spider-proofing. Additionally, the walled garden is a content filter of sorts. Content on the internet is very uneven in quality. Once I find a source that I trust for quality content, it isn't practical or desirable for me to continue seeking other sources. I want to stay within the walled garden that appeals to me. Of course, I hope that the garden grows and changes to adjust to what's happening in the world. If it doesn't, I'm free to look for other gardens to spend my time in.
A series of walled gardens is what the internet is evolving to. People are realizing that You Tube, blogs and twitter are cool ideas, but the reality is that the low bar to entry produces an abundance of junk. The walled garden becomes a sanctuary from the junk. I believe that some of the most successful internet companies in the future will be 'micro-media' companies. Like the mega-media companies (NBC, The McClatchy Company, etc.), they will control the quality and type of content to appeal to a small slice of the internet population. This population will appreciate them for doing that and will pay them by viewing ads or even paying them directly.
For now, social networks are the best way for me to raise the quality of the content that I see on the internet. These social networks point me to the information that I find most interesting, valuable or entertaining.
I think alot of these posts are missing the point. Its not a question whether FaceBook, MySpace, or the others are useful. The question is, especially in the case of the FaceBook API, do we need/want a platform on top of the Internet? Ultimatly, I think all would agree we don't want one company acting as middle man.
The web is a universe.
Nobody lives in the universe.
We live in villages, neighborhood. Some people live in countries, but only when they feel nationalist or when they watch the Mondial football games.
So, we mostly live in closed quarters among people we know and understand. Our brain doesn't function well in wide open spaces. It is a side effect of the human race being born quite lonely, in a few squattered groups in the dry valley of the Rift. We need recognizable faces. Or facebooks. Or just a magazine called Us with frontpage photos of... us, or People, with images of... faces. Well, people.
I too resisted Facebook until I got the 3rd invite. But not because of the noble reasons you uphold more because I don't need any more distractions and I hated the fact that I couldn't see what it was really about until I logged in. But the 3rd invite hit hard and the herd mentality clicked in and I joined up like a good sheep.
But I'm not convinvced I'll be continuing to use it because the only feature I liked about facebook was the 'Steve is ...' feature which allows me to share my pain/joy with my friends. I hadn't seen Twitter until now and it's all that I want because all I have to do is use my Jabber client. Now I have to ween my friends off of Facebook. Hmmm.
No advertising revenue in it either, eh?
Aaron - It's not that Facebook is revolutionary in it's technology, it's that it has a different culture about it. The other popular sites - myspace and beebo - smack of young-teenagers who have music automatically blaring out of their psychedelically coloured page. Facebook, by contrast, is much more restrained as it doesn't allows heavy customisation and as such breeds a different user base that captures a lot of the people who wouldn't use the other services. That user base just happens to loosely overlap with the more technical minded sector of the internet communities.
The services and products that get popular are the ones that manage to take an old but still relatively new idea and package it in a more palatable way. Just because it's not completely new in it's features doesn't mean that it's not different and revolutionary in it's presentation, marketing, feel or user base.
I don't know about Facebook or other generic social networking sites, but I wouldn't lump LinkedIn with them. LinkedIn is a social networking site with a purpose. Which is all it takes for a social networking site to be of any use, really.
And the platform on which anyone can communicate and collaborate with anyone else isn't the Internet, it's the real world. At least, that's in theory. But saying that social networking sites cannot compete with the Internet is like saying that real-life meting places cannot compete with the world.
Most times things like the local user group, the local pub, the local whatever, are much more convenient than interfacing with the whole world. I don't need the whole world, I only need a small subset of like-minded people.
Plus, joining a social networking site, IMO, gives a pretty good excuse to contact other people. On the Internet, I don't expect to be emailed or IMd by a random person, just as in the real world i don't expect to be chatted up on the street. But I surely would expect to be chatted up by a member of one of the groups I belong to at a group meeting.
I have been trying to avoid these "walled gardens" for years now. Seems like I can never explain why I don't want to join to others and end up caving and joining.
Thank you for the articulate post that conveys my thoughts!
hmmm.... what has this person (who admits he doesn't like social networking sites) and his feeling that social networking and password protected web sites are doomed because of AOL and the internet as a whole,,,, got to do with the real issues of privacy of information?
It seems evident to me that sites like Face Book show we as an online society are:
- moving towards the USA's view on private/public information collection;
- becoming happier to accept more info rather than less, and self-sensor;
- evaluating the positive aspects of the advancement of online storage and file sharing;
to name but 3 very important sociological issues.
It is my understanding that these ideas alone are far more likely to drive the progress of social network and private/public portals than whether 'social networking' as an entity resembles a failed attempt at networking previously (which also happened to exclude the very important provision of API's did it not (correct me if I'm wrong).
The Internet is so big... so badly indexed... For the moment being social networks like linked in, facebook, myspace, livejournal and others are the chosen way to build and integrate subnets which are based on shared interests and other elective affections. These private island make the Internet smaller so that we can find each other more easily. They're like instant Internet homes. You register and pop! you've become part of a few neighborhoods.
Maybe what's really missing is an effective way to link in various people and websites, something decentralized that's truly open. It could be a new service, a new initiative or just an innovative way to use something like FOAF. I don't know yet.
Or we could think of these services as simple front doors to your Internet (and real life) presence...
AOL had the world by the short curlies...and they BLEW IT!!! Their business model and culture prevented them from adapting to the internet. I'm seeing the same pattern with Blockbuster video and with cable companies. Many companies that are practically monopolies tend to "defend" their way of life instead of innovate and adapt...and then the wave of change eventually comes crashing over them (Netflix, VOD)...and then they become followers.
You also don't have to consider Facebook to only enumerate friends. Sure, they label the links 'friends' but I see it as more of a collection of people that I may want to contact or may want to contact me. People I went to school with, or worked with, and would add them to an address book, but it maintains that for me.
The self-updating address book idea mentioned before was a good analogy.
You folks saying you weren't interested in SN until Facebook, please just admit that it has nothing to do with the technology or convenience, and everything to do with crossing the threshold of popularity from being part of an obnoxious fad to avoiding social isolation. - Aaron G
but for those who are in college, it's the best way to keep in touch with friends and have a bit of fun while doing it. - Nick
The best (or in Aarong's case - ONLY) way to keep in touch with people is through SN sites? That's a shock. From the tone of lots of people here, it almost seems that calling family and friends is pass. And that's a shame, because it's much more gratifying - for BOTH people.
I have purposely turned down all of the invitations that I have received, because I'd rather not be another person who resorts to such impersonal and passive forms of communication. I have a phone, and my friends know that they are worth the $2/mo that it costs me to call them.
Greate post...but i disagree....Reason-Orkut.I love orkuting...its defenitly a better way of keeping in touch with friends and to know what they are doing easly...i do agree u can mail or make a call...but just be practical...how many childhood friends name u remember atleat...u might have interacted with 100's of children of ur age...i had so many childhood crush of gals inmy class...this is the best way to peep in and see what they doing now...just kidding...but the network is so powerfull u can kkeep in contact with nay one,more importanly digg ur old friends out....
Say you were out at the mall or a concert and you ran into someone you haven't been in touch with since high school or college. Say you used to be good friends or there was that one time you went on a road trip to a concert/party together. You just drifted apart as you got older. They got a job in another city or went to a different college. You started dating someone and spent all your time with them instead of this person. Would you shun them just because they ran into you at the mall instead of calling you up?
That's how a lot of people use these social networks. A way of keeping in touch with people or catching up with people.
The ones who just want to amass as many "friends" as they can so they can brag about how many people have "friended" or "linked" to them because the had the misfortune of being born with ... shrinkage, well they aren't the real users of the network and they actually benefit the least.
On reading the post, my thought is that the distinction between technology and sociology is blurred in the discussion. From a technology point of view, open will win. From a social point of view, there's a place for both public and private discourse. Three (or everybody) can be a crowd, and I think there will always be a need for the private, even in an online, open technology, world.
**The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
"You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world."
And the roses were very much embarassed.
"You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you-- the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.**
Antoine de Saint-Exupry, The little prince
I found this so interesting that I decided to share it on Facebook.
Actually, I understand both sides of this. I avoided social networking sites for years. Now I use the social networking sites I do use to control the information that people find out, and how. My myspace page for example is very different from my facebook page which is different from my Zoints profile. Each one has a different purpose, and recieves different information.
On the other hand, I often also participate in many open resources, of which I use to disseminate, or accumulate other information. I have a blog, I am a member of many forums, and even am an admin of my own forum. All or almost all information I put up there is free for anyone to see without signing up. I would have to say that in general, these two sets of resources have served different needs, each site serving it's own set of needs.
I use the open sources more as a way of collecting information about others, or letting people get to know me who would not have been able to get to know me otherwise. I use the closed sources to put out information to those I already know, but I do not collect much information from other people using them.
That is where I stand on all this.
Oh, and you said to message you, make a public interaction, and you might interact back. Here is my public interaction. Something Profound (a href="http://profoundforum.com"http://profoundforum.com/a) is my forum. If you feel inclined to come in and check it out please do. I wanted to invite you, not just because you are knowledgeable, something we always need a little more of, but also because this is not an invite to a private thing, it is to a public thing. We are small, and sometimes abrasive, but we are in our own way a social network. Maybe you will check it out and take my offer, maybe you won't. I just thought I would invite you.
It was said many ways by many commenters on here, but Facebook is different in that you can *find* people you otherwise would never have found or even remembered to look for. I had the same attitude as you about social sites, but I finally relented in the Facebook case because I was getting so many "invites". The interface is what attracted me first (nice and simple), and the fact I was finding loads of people I had actually forgotten about is what kept me on. Sure, the thing might get hijacked at some point, in some way (whether by the community or by the company itself adding more than the single "ad widget" or charging a fee). But for now, it's a great way to keep in touch with *your* friends. I totally agree with the on poster who mentioned sending messages with it... it is a quick and easy way to send and receive "e-mail" without worrying about spam.
Social networking sites have their place, and it mainly goes back to the point that you don't always want everything you write on the internet to be totally public. In its original concept, Facebook would only allow you to join a school's network if you had an e-mail address from them as proof of your studentship. It not only protects kids from paedo's on the internet, but also all the other dangers facing the naive; compare the girl who put out an open invitation to her house party on MySpace last year and had tons of people turn up. On facebook, she'd at least have been restricted to her schoolmates.
Also, sometimes they make you more discoverable to people you could potentially meet one day. That's why I joined facebook myself at uni, and I found myself put in contact with people's profiles and blogs who actually lived near me.
The same function is provided by niche sites like Gaydar, which helps you find gay people in your area, and keeps your profile safe from people you wouldn't want to see it (your mum? your boss? whatever). It's certainly changed the nature of dating for me.
You don't have to spend all your internet-time in a gated community, but sometimes it's just what you need.
I think my previous comment, and some other peoples, can be summed up in "Facebook makes it simple". But for the simplicity you have to pay the price of generalisation, and one of those generalisations is finer privacy controls.
Check out Mark Andreessen's post on why he had started Ning:
"I also think that in time, many people will decide they want to create their own social networks -- echoing the 1990's, when tens of millions of people who were introduced to the online world by proprietary online services like AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy ultimately decided they wanted to create and live in a world of millions of web sites, not just a world of a few large walled gardens."
Thats the thing about walled gardens: they die. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon that you showed a picture of is gone, isn't it? But it was a spectacle! It was amazing, and became apart of history. Myspace, facebook, youtube... These gardens are spectacles in themselves. I have a facebook account, just so I can be apart of the spectacle. So that I can see inside these walls and observe the paradise. But thats just because I'm easily amused. I don't actually find purpose or dire need for these walled gardens, but I like playing around and exploring them.
I would like to point out (not that anyone accused me of saying such things, but I would like to point it out anyways) that I never said that walled gardens are a good thing. I think they are just another tool. I have gone through many blog sites over my years on the internet. Each one served a purpose, and when that purpose was done and served I found a better site that could better serve newer more prominent needs of mine.
Much like my open sources like blogs, my walled garden sources service certain needs as well. That does not make them good or bad. That does not make them anything else besides a tool. Open garden sources are the same. Both are just tools, which when used correctly can make you prosper (in whatever you are trying to acheive with them from bringing in traffic to a website, to making money, to keepinging in touch with friends or trying to scare off a few annoying younger kids), and when used incorrectly may give you a headache.
FxFibben, I ask that you take a look into my forum as well. This time I am asking not to promote the site or anything, but rather to give you a solid example of a open garden social network with no ads. The closest thing to an ad we have up is the occasional newsfeed reminder that we have a store. A store that is there more for fun than anything else because we never expected to be able to support ourselves on any earnings we make, and so far we have been right.
Social Networks come in open and closed as well. Or at least I consider them to come in such. I welcome a differing opinion on this. Forums would be a good example of open social networking. It is usually a group focused on a specific topic, or has areas for a specific topic. People interested in such a topic can access that information, signed in or not, or can add to the information by singing in, which is really only to help keep spam down.
Really, the heart of the division between people all for open gardens and closed gardens that I am seeing is the same dividing line between those who choose freesom over security and those who choose security over freedom. I think personally, I ride the fence. I like a little (or a lot) of both. The honest truth is that you can get both out of an open garden model if you are smart, I will nto pretend that you can't.
In my final point I would like to agree with FxFibben in a sense. I personally have been known to use my walled garden accounts most for self promotion. Or rather, in a sense, free ad space. I mention my forum, my projects, or whatever information I think my built in database of readers will be interested in and may benifit them, giving them value that will then be returned to me in continued prosperity through their assistance, or busininess or whatever else that account is for. I do this a little bit less in open garden settings. That could just as easily be reversed however. This is not a set in stone way of using these tools and I know many people who use their open garden tools the way I use my cwalled garden tools.
I have a question for anyone willing to answer it. What do you view as the main purpose of walled gardens? Open gardens?
Jeff, I think I would even challenge you to something you challenged the world to in an earlier post. We don't need to be learning the programs necessairly. Someone well versed in several open garden or closed garden sites can usually tell you that they are usually all formed the same at the basics but serve different fuctions. What we need to learn is how to use any site, to our advantage. Individual sites accross the board, closed or open will have their peaks and their downfall, each with a different time scale. What we need to be learning is not how each site works and why, or why a site is bad, but how to use the tools a site give to the fullest advantage
Jeff, here is my challenge, and anyone opposed to closed garden sites, this is for you as well. Find a popular one. Facebook seems to be on the rise. If you can't think of one off hand use Facebook. Now my challenge is this, choose a goal. More traffic to your personal web site, a better relationship with some group of people, making more money for your company. Now use that closed garden site to acheive your goal. I know there is no way to really measure if this works, but I can tell you that if you are doing things right and you choose the right apporaches and network right using the site it won't take you much time a day, and it can give you a large presence in that community. A presence that will bring prosperity. If nothing else, it is a good test of your marketing skills.
How did that connect to any of your previous posts? I got the inspiration from your post about learning how to learn. We don't need to learn the sites, we need to learn how to use the sites (open and walled), like we need to learn how to use Wikipedia.
I'm not going to say that every walled garden site is for everyone. Many places I set up a presences on and then never updated it again because the atmosphere was too stifling. But for those first few weeks I would see a burst of traffic, or a onslaught of people contacting me about something or another. It may have been coincidence, or it may be that I'm lucky, I don't know. All I know is that in my experiance, the effort pays off. How it differs from a open garden site I can tell you too.
If you want people to come to your open garden site you promote and you promote and you push and you do all you can to get your google rating up and your search engine rating up and you tell people about it and you push it with everyone you know and plenty of people you don't know. With a walled garden the people come to you. And they will stay if you have something they want. That is why I would say that FxFibben is right, it is all about (f)ads. Isn't it time people learned to use the tools to promote their wares for free?
Sorry this has been long, and was not nearly as good a post as my last one. It also didn't entierly stay on topic, for that I apologize. It was more a collection of thoughts and ideas that came to me as I read the responses to my post and built into something largs and unweildly. I also apologize for the spelling. I am not at my regular computer today, and have no spell check. I will now be on my merry way and get back to my original intention which was to post a link to this in my forum.
Another great post. The main reason behind social networking is social engineering geared towards selling (f)ads, getting eyeballs and grabbing unsuspecting users by their winsocks (adware, spyware and such). It has nothing to do with social networking.
Yeah I tend to agree with Belak. I like my walls. Different things happen on Myspace than what happens on URNotAlone, which is specifically for transgender people. I can't think of a better example of the reason for segregation than that. I'm sure the people on LDSRomances don't want a tranny in the mix. Social networking sites are not an extension of the web, they are not sub-webs or whatever... they are reasonably segregated communities which are segregated because they want to be. Myspace has lost its original focus, which is why it no longer seems like a specialized community and more like AOL...
I almost choked up reading three variations of "seggregation" in one sentense (see previous post, the one that agrees with Belak). First come the walled gardens, then come the pedophiles, spammers and other "walled garden trash".
It is actually great that such "clubs" work by invitation only. Main advantage of the Internet over previous concepts is The Open Concept. You can look for, find and contact whomever you want - provided there is a mutual interest in communication. Walls are not known to improve communication except if you don't want to talk to your "neighbor".
If you like seggregation and dodging ads, walled garden is for you.
I regularly read your articles, it's the first tech feed on my google homepage. I really enjoy all your articles. They are not just programming examples. They have easy to follow links and I can stay busy for hours, and it's not just wasting time, I think I am really learning as well.
I just wanted to say thanks for every article, I look forward to them every day.
Keep up the good work,
Would you shun them just because they ran into you at the mall instead of calling you up? - Scott
In fact, yes: I did just that this passed x-mas to a number of people. It was sad, because these were friends that I'd had for a long time; not just people I lost touch with. I don't need friends who can't be bother to BE friends. I can make more - I've never had problems there - and it's much easier now that people don't expect others to actually DO anything anymore.
Aaron: I had NO idea that things had gotten to that point (with respect to your friend's wedding). I'm sure that this trend will change, and that society will eventually level itself off again: People have a tendency to over use/abuse anything new. I am just surprised that only a few people have realized the problem.
And when you say: "I think the main attraction of social networking (in contrast to the BS rationale that people try to feed us) is the opportunity for pure unabashed laziness." - Truer words were never spoken.
But the upside: No-one actually interacting might mean that the population will start thinning...
Well said. And thank you for a legible catchpa!
"Facebook is an intranet for you and your friends that just happens to be accessible without a VPN. If you're not a Facebook user, you can't do anything with the site. Nearly everything published by their users is private. Google doesn't index any user-created information on Facebook. All of the significant information and, more importantly, interaction still happens in private. Maybe we shouldn't be so excited about the web's future moving onto an intranet."
I've had the same uncomfortable feeling about web-based message boards. Prima facie, the walled-garden model violates the principle that information wants to be free.
Think of how Fidonet helped to open up the insular world of BBSs. Think of how Usenet was designed to be inherently inclusive (just start a news server on a Net-connected machine and all its users instantly join the "conversation") and eternal (because decentralized). Now, Usenet is irrelevant to all but a tiny online subculture, BBSs are dead, and the traffic that those media would have borne is now happening on Web-based message boards, whose owners can edit content, forget to pay for their server space, or shut down for good at will, and whose content (more important) is essentially invisible to Google unless you know the secret password (the URL of the site's archives). Balkanized again!
Another applicable simile might be to the shift from the open dissemination of information and knowledge in the classical period (at least if you weren't a slave) to the locked, guarded libraries and monasteries of the Middle Ages. Obviously we need a Renaissance to happen, but is Web 2.0 it? I'm not convinced (yet).
Great insight. It's too bad that the hype around Facebook Platform obscured that the've built a really great experience for their users.
Thousands of sites are struggling to gain users for their little service with little hope of succeeding. Facebook sets a great example for exposing these applications within their site and bypassing the signup tax for using them.
I don't believe Facebook is the new internet, but I sure like the little world map on my profile that shows where I've been. That's cool.
using the same idea of metaphors, let me give you one i had:
the early days of the internet was a walled garden used by some geeks.
out of this walled garden came the web as we know it. so Facebook is a walled garden that will open up, while at the same time keep its "semi-privacy" that attracts people to it.
steps in this direction are the SumbleUpon.com and last.fm facebook applications. these apps bridge the gap between the 2 networks and facebook, which is something i think every other networks will do, so that facebook turns into a mega-network monster
Late to the party, but thought I'd comment on some of the people advocating the "privacy" of facebook. In a way that warms the cynical cockles of my heart.
I found it quite amusing that the supposedly private information posted on facebook by it's users, typically by college kids, stuff that they really wouldn't to be public at all. Pictures and information of them being drunk and stupid, etc. ended up being used against them by the institution that defined the scope of their privacy.
Or more amusingly, by interns for corporations tasked to scour facebook for dirt on that person. What happens on Facebook doesn't stay on facebook. (see this wikipedia article with references, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook ). So it's like the worst of the open internet, people who might know you finding dirt about you easily because of the self-selected environment. I mean they don't even have to search to the 3rd page of results on google!. So be wary of who might be spying on you in that walled garden, since they might know you and not be your friend.
All this brings me back to the title of this post. As I think about the current Facebook craze and the notion of it as an all-encompassing platform, sucking in functionality from other sites across the board, I find myself skeptical. With my Long Tail hat on, I think that one-size-fits-all will fail in social networking, just as it has everywhere else (which is why I like Ning, which suppresses its own brand for the sake of those of the microsites it hosts).
Instead, I think focused sites that serve niche communities will extract the best lessons from Facebook and MySpace and offer better social networking tools to the communities they already have. I'm sure huge and generic social networking destinations will continue to do well, but I'm placing my bet on the biggest impact coming when social networking becomes a standard feature on all good sites, bringing community to the granular level where it always works best.
i couldn't have done a better article, you've said all the things i've been telling my friends, kudos to you fella!
I can appreciate the privacy argument and I can appreciate the friend-of-a-friend networking, but I can't get behind the vendor lock-in.
Jabber and email doesn't lock me in to a specific company, why should non-public foaf-stuff?
I'll never get a Facebook account.
I wonder if the author has heard of OpenSocial?
I agree with you about Facebook - it is too general and sucking in otherwise available apps from the Internet seems goofy at best. Do I really need another pseudo file system to hold all my crap? No.
On the other hand - social networks with a specific purpose are great - specifically LinkedIn. I have ammassed 680 REAL associates and colleagues I have worked with. I am a marketing guy - it is my job to talk to lots of people. I recently got laid off, went to LinkedIn and posted my status: Rob is looking for a new gig - within two days, I was flooded with real tangible opportunities that I am currently interviewing for. Most people without a job I know feel like they are doomed to hell until macroeconomics improve - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
I have the luxury of a rich LinkedIn network and will likely end up being unemployed for a net of three days. So, a well purposed social network (like any other tool), when used properly, is a great asset.
Wait a sec—are you trying to say that Twitter *isn't* a walled garden? Identi.ca has since demonstrated otherwise.
What about all the people who want a much higher level of privacy for their pics and everything, and only want friends to see? There's no easy way to do all that with friends in the wild using blogs and all. Lots of people want walled gardens.
You can always write a post for me to refer to, thanks!
By this logic it would seem you think instance messaging apps should go. Private groupings have a deserved place. I see it like when there were BBS's... they pretty much were gobbled up by the internet. But I for one miss the one I used. It isn't the same without it. Facebook is the internet's version of a BBS.
What I think is scary is the illusion of privacy that sites like Facebook give. People really think they are safe by posting whatever they want on Facebook. Especially the younger genreations, who are posting their entire lives on these walled gardens.
Reading this for the first time since you posted it on twitter tonight.
While the sentiment definitely resonates with me (I am opposed to walled gardens as well, despite having facebook and linkedin accounts) I think alot of these walled gardens are moving in the right direction via standards-compliant open APIs, such as OpenID, OAuth, microformats, and REST-based web services. This isn't the same as being truly open web, but at the same time it brings some structure to otherwise chaotic content. The fact that these APIs are present and that services are interacting with eachother means things are much better than in the AOL days of old.
What amazes me is not that people are fickle (when it comes to social networking, that's understandable), but that they feel it necessary to rationalize their new fascination by claiming that the current state of the art is truly revolutionary.
Facebook doesn't really let you do anything you couldn't do before. Neither does AJAX, or the iPhone, or Ruby or the WPF. They might offer some incremental improvements over the old low-tech methods, slightly more convenient ways of doing the same things you used to do, but it's always a marginal improvement and never an explosion of better living or productivity.
You folks saying you weren't interested in SN until Facebook, please just admit that it has nothing to do with the technology or convenience, and everything to do with crossing the threshold of popularity from being part of an obnoxious fad to avoiding social isolation.
Steve-O: Unfortunately direct communication is pass for a lot of people. One of my friends has planned her entire wedding through Facebook - not a single paper invitation, phone call, or e-mail sent out (except the automated Facebook e-mails). I still have no intention of joining - I've politely told her that I cannot read the "messages" I keep getting alerts about and that if they pertain to me, she should tell me personally. Not surprisingly, whenever I speak to her about it, she doesn't even remember what their content was; that's how little thought goes into the "socializing".
I think the main attraction of social networking (in contrast to the BS rationale that people try to feed us) is the opportunity for pure unabashed laziness. Instead of doing the hard work of remembering or maintaining people's contact information, deciding whether or not something should be interesting/important to them, and actually, you know, keeping in touch, they just slop everything on their Facebook and assume it'll reach whoever it's supposed to. And it often does, hence the popularity of those services.
Quaint that social networking does such a stellar job of eroding real-life social networks. Is this the Facebook "culture" I keep hearing so much about? No thanks.
My facebook is for me and my friends in my chainlink surrounded garden. I don't want my conversations or pictures available to my current or future employers, people I don't know, or marketing harvesters. If FB targets ads to me I'm ok with that, they're providing me a free service.
Companies and products investing time creating FB pages for reasons other than SEO or SEM is a waste of time. Create a blog as this article describes - it will be around longer.