>I wasn’t going to elaborate on yesterday’s rant about hating facebook, but several people made comments, which got me thinking even more.
My main point yesterday was that I hate facebook because it’s protocols aren’t open, and is consequently is a “Walled Garden” approach to social networking. (Here’s another great rant on the subject) That’s not to say that you can’t work with it – there are plugins for pidgin that let you chat on the facebook protocol, and there are clients (as was pointed out to me) that will integrate your IMs with the facebook chat for windows. But that wasn’t my point anyways.
My point is that it’s creating it’s own separate protocols, which are each independent of the ones before it. In contrast to a service like twitter, in which the underlying protocol is XML, and is thus easily manipulated, using Facebook requires you work within their universe of standards. (I’m not the first person to come up with this – google will find you lots of examples of other people blogging the same thing.)
On the whole, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but common, reusable standards are what drive progress.
For instance, without a common HTML standard, the web would not have flourished – we’d have many independent webs. If AOL had their way, they’d still have you dialing up into their own proprietary Internet.
Without a common electricity format, we’d have to pick the appropriate set of appliances for our homes with independent plugs – buying a hair dryer would be infinitely more painful than it would need to be.
Without a common word processing format, we’d suffer every time we try to send a document to someone who’s not using the same word processor that you do. (Oh wait, that’s actually Microsoft’s game – they refuse to properly support the one common document format every one else uses.)
So, when it comes to Facebook, my hate is this – if they used a simple RSS feed for the wall, I could have used that instead of twitter on my site. If they used a simple Jabber format for their chat, I could have merged that with my google chat account. And then there’s their private message system… well, that’s just email, but not accessible by IMAP or POP.
What they’ve done is try to resurect a business model that the web-unsavy keep trying. In the short term, it’s pure money. You drive people into it because everyone is using it. The innovate concept makes it’s adoption rapid and ubiquitous – but then you fall into the trap. The second generation of sites use open standards, and that allows FAR more cool things to be accomplished.
Examples of companies trying the walled garden approach on the net:
AOL and their independent internet, accessible only to AOL subscribers. Current Status: Laughable
Microsoft’s Hotmail, where hotmail users can’t export their email to migrate away. Current Status: GMail fodder.
Yahoo’s communities. Current Status: irrelevant.
Wall Street Journal’s new site. Current Status: ridiculed by people younger than 45.
Apple’s i(phone/pod/tunes/etc). Current Status: Frequently hacked, forced to accept the defacto .mp3 format. (No Ogg yet…)
Ok, that’s enough examples. All I have to say is that when Google (or anyone else) gets around to building a social networking site that’s open and easy to play with, it won’t be long before Facebook colapses.
The moral of the story? Don’t invest too much in your facebook profile – it’ll be obsolete in a few years.