Being on terra cognita (!) means that I can finally read some interesting stuff, like this James Fallows post, in which he summarizes a couple of essays on how Facebook is rapidly changing the internet, for worse.
- Google's business success depended on a worldwide internet structure as open, untrammeled, and transparent as possible. Therefore most of what Google did for its own corporate interest also advanced those aims -- or at least did not impede them.Even during the old, old days, when AOL was my dial-up connection to the internet, post-college, I rarely ever made use of its proprietary services. I was far more keen on whatever was available in the freer internet and the web. That AOL world was nothing compared to the ultra-creepy Facebook.
- Facebook's business success depends on an internet structure that is increasingly "gated" and segregated into proprietary realms. Therefore most of what Facebook has done is to induce maximum sharing of personal information within its propriety sphere, while erecting barriers to the flow of information from one realm to another.
- The shift of business advantage from the "public" to the "private" model means more than a different subset of people becoming zillionaires. It will also affect the fundamental structure of the Internet and its value to the 99.999% of us who are neither Google nor Facebook IPO-beneficiaries. Already its effects are being seen, as all these pieces argue, with Google's promotion of its "G+" and social-search features. Facebook's ascent leaves Google with no choice but to compete on those terms.
It's also a battle with important "externality" effects on the rest of us. For instance: Google's success has depended on people spending as much time within its online ecosystem as possible. Thus it had an incentive to offer, free, services like Google Earth, whose commercial predecessors charged subscribers thousands of dollars per year. Or Google Maps, which is expensive to maintain. Facebook's success mainly depends on having users share more and more of their personal information within the Facebook environment. Its business logic leads to fewer "public goods."Yep, Facebook is forcing everybody into evil ways. That is not a good development at all. I am sure somebody will soon figure a way out of this Facebook-imposed business model. I hope.
To wax geostrategic for a moment, this argument over the Internet "commons" is very much like debates through the post-World War II era about the conflict between relatively open and relatively closed political and economic systems. Ie, the more a closed or beggar-thy-neighbor regime prospers, the worse behavior it evokes -- for survival reasons -- from all other participants.