Sunday, July 15, 2007

History repeats itself with Facebook?

We all know about the Facebook Revolution right? Whilst I've not said it on here, I don't think Facebook will last as a major user proposition. There are a couple of reasons for this, like Second Life, I think it will be a platform that will see its user base increase, but see its active user base plateau. Like many things, it's great initially but users eventually get bored and move on to the next fad.

There is another problem that Facebook faces, it is, in 2007, what AOL was in 1994. What do I mean by that? Well I suggest reading Scott Heiferman's blog to understand the point. He notes
AOL 94 vs. Facebook 07 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. Strangely, many young facebookizens aren't very net savvy (facebook *is* their internet) & they have little desire to go beyond the walled garden -- just like the old AOL users. There's even a proprietary Facebook messaging system (kids don't use much open internet email)
AOL eventually dumped Rainman in favour of open standards as it started to face fierce competition globally, and whilst AOL Server went open source it's usage remains quite limited. Facebook has in effect become a similar walled garden of activity. It's fan will tell you it's a great tool for communication and collaboration, but as kottke.org points out,
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.
Facebook is a fad right now, at some point though it will find itself competing against a superior and open version of itself, and unless it changes history will just repeat itself.