May 21st, 2008

Pondering Facebook, Twitter, Google, Open Standards And The Future Of The Web


I’ve read a bunch of interesting observations the last several days that have me pondering the future of the web — I’ve been trying to put it into a coherent blog post, but as this is my third draft and it still hasn’t gelled, I’m going to try thinking out loud. See if you can connect the dots.

From Robert Scoble:

Loic Le Meur did a little test with me a couple of weeks ago. He listed his Le Web conference on both Facebook and Here’s the Facebook listing. Here’s the one.

The Facebook one can’t be seen if you don’t have a Facebook account. It’s NOT open to the public Web. Google’s spiders CAN NOT REACH IT.

He put both listings up at exactly the same time and did no invites, nothing. Just let people find these listings on their own.

The Facebook one is NOT available to the Web. It has 467 people who’ve accepted it. The one IS available to Google and the Web. It has 101 people on it.

From Fred Wilson:

Facebook provides an incredibly valuable service to my three children. The other day I saw my oldest daughter get an invite to a party on Facebook, she accepted it, and then went to look at her accepted invite page. It was her social calendar, every party she plans to attend in the next two months is there. She noticed she had another event that night and then switched her acceptance to tentative. She uses Facebook the way I use Outlook. Who cares if she can port her social graph out of Facebook? It’s not going to happen anytime soon because the social context and data FLOW through Facebook is providing enormous value to her and her friends.

From Marshall Kirkpatrick:

Facebook and MySpace have replaced email for a substantial number of young people. Facebook, though, appears to believe that some things are better off not discussed in conversations between its members.

We’ve found two instances of words that will get a Facebook message blocked and we presume there are others. The company says it’s spam control, but it seems creepy to us.

From Howard Lindzon (via Twitter):

Please do not send me direct messages on twitter. my email address is on my blog. Twitter rarely works and I only check once a day.

Some observations:

  • Google is a gateway to the WHOLE web, while Facebook is a gateway to what’s inside Facebook
  • Most people probably assume that if they can’t find something in Google, then it doesn’t exist online
  • A teenager’s friends may ALL be on Facebook, but EVERYONE who uses the internet (including those teenagers) has an email address
  • Your email belongs to you, but Facebook messages belong to Facebook

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

  • Email delivery generally is not dependent on a single service (although a given address may be dependent on a single email server), while delivery of Twitter direct messages and Facebook messages is dependent entirely and exclusively on those services
  • Google CEO Eric Schmit has wondered in the past why some companies are still “betting against the internet

The web is made possible by open, interoperable standards for content and communication, e.g. http, HTML, hyperlink, SMTP, etc. — will the future of the web be based on closed, proprietary standards for content and communication?

No company can touch Google’s ability to monetize the use of the open web — the more people use the web, the more money Google makes. Can Facebook compete with Google by eschewing the open web and open standards? Or is Facebook betting against the internet?


Email me if you figure it out.

  • gregory

    if you want to see the movie, go in the theater (walled garden) ... if you want to know about movies, go online ... something for everybody

    but facebook is clunky and approximate compared to living in a community, and something more refined will replace it

    we are in a river

  • @Scott

    You're right, it is about interoperability. And it's like this: there are personal digital identities (people) and there is the Internet (world). And there are tons of concepts for information and communication to get them together somehow.

    The names of the most popular concepts right now are the ones you mentioned in the title of your post. But as Neil points out, nothing is forever. Facebook is getting slow and clumsy, people are starting to leave (or just stop using) it. No matter what Facebook does, it will lose relevance in the next couple of years or decades a least.

    First, it's a matter of infrastructure, a Facebook closed shop for billions of current users is not going to work. Second, it's a matter of emotion. There will always be a smaller but powerful group of people that goes a different road, and Facebook cannot afford to keep them out of their system.

    It's like Microsoft's office software for the Macintosh. Google's philisophy is far more promising -- even though/that's because some of their influence needs to be cut back. But hey, they are going to melt down as well: :)

    Neil is right, new players will come up, and I'm sure that these players fully support the concept of openess and interoperability #semantic web ...

  • The compuserve analogy gives a hint: something new and more suited to the situation will be spawned, taking\combining the best features of current players like Facebook and Google, etc, etc.

    Sounds positively darwinian, doesn't it. But that's the internet for you.

    You can see this process in action every day. For example, take Seesmic = Twitter meets YouTube.

  • @KP

    The problem I think is interoperability. What happens when Fred Wilson's children grow up and get jobs, with corporate email addresses, and have to deal with people, companies, and organizations who don't live inside Facebook. The more they have to communicate outside of Facebook, the less it has an "all inclusive" value proposition.


    Sometimes I find it more useful to ask a question than to answer one.

  • Didn't we have almost the same discussion already 13 years ago? In those days most people had to be a member of compuserve or similar networks to get connected with the online world. Apart from students only very few people used ISPs to dive into the open Web space.

    Ok, compuserve isn't around anymore, but the genral concept still exists, and obviously enough, the Web is still there too. I remember back then I compared the situation with the travel industry. A lot of people (especially families) like to stay in holiday clubs with "all inclusive" services. They enjoy their time completely isolated. And then there are real travellers, those who like to explore, to learn, to travel around. Both concepts coexist today, just like the world (regard it as the infrastructure for any kind of travel) still exists as well.

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