There’s this idea I’ve been rummaging for quite some time:
Facebook could actually be the Open Social Graph that mention the Scriptures (en lieu of Diaspora, OSW, Buzz 3P structure, AppleSeed) — except the best way to open is to first have as many people on board, and then open the ground they stand on, for two things:
- to reach an agreement on what conventions should make the social web (how to handle faceted identities, relevancy, structure control);
- to lock-in users, before the storm of necessary adjustments to the opening: attention management, data portability, structure informations, etc. all come with too many issues to anticipate them all.
I believe a platform could reach significant adoption and openness by never being ‘closed’ (like Apache, WordPress or Firefox did) but Facebook’s method could actually be faster, if not the only one fast enough not to fail at offer.
(As much as I love rhyme-book paining, the eye-candy is actually further down.)
Mark Zuckerberg keeps repeating “to make the world more open & social,” without any definition of either; he doesn’t argue against the critics who demand an interoperable platform or portable data — two of the many actual, contradictory, technical options of what “Open” can mean. Why? He has repeated that he likes about “doing stuff” and not talk about it prior, so he most likely has something in mind, that needs to be done and that would quiet such critics.
Kirkpatrick insists on how Mark worked on Warehog, a distributed file-sharing system: he makes it sound like a dead-end, except it helped set up the Application platform. Part of the euphemisms are due to the legal risk, and part to Kirkpatrick’s orientation: he studies tech as a business — but Zuckerberg is visionary enough to make the connection between what he learnt working on a distributed file-sharing system and a more ambitious distributed social network; that explains his investment in Diaspora, for instance. That’s why I expect Facebook to become “more open,” but only after being an omnipresent identity connector. Before that, I believe (that Zuckerberg believes) that the platform would lack the experience to make it feasible: users wouldn’t understand what is an identity provider, and those in charge of developers wouldn’t know how to present them the framework. It might end up being in Facebook economic interest to do so.
Oddly enough, when I compared these cloudy interpretations with the grief on the technical forums for the more “open” alternatives, it made me think of an argument that I had against Free Software vs. Mac: if “Free” is about doing what you want with your computer with no restrictions — than the free-er option to 95% of computer users is a computer where they can find all the necessary menus, options without being stalled by problems beyond their ability to comprehend them. Or rather, to take a more optimistic view, if you want 95% of the users to care about what they could be tweaking on a free machine, let their first machine be well designed — they’ll want to install GNU-Linux even faster.
The same argument about speed seems to apply to Social Network(ing) services. Just to make sense of it, I tried to draft a presentation about those dynamics (.mov, click to move forward): What do you think?
[If you know how to embed a Keynote presentation in a wordpress.com blog, I'd love to improve this.]
All this is fairly speculative, but not theoretical. Facebook is at least —like iPhone was to Android— a stepping stone: something to prove feasibility, show how to design the interactions, architecture (the non-distributed parts), something to pillage from when barrier-less competition overcomes exclusivity to the inventor.
Coming soon: detailed comments on David Kirkpatrick’s book The Facebook Effect;
Coming sooner: Competition between location based services (LBS) & the efficiency of the star graph structure.