I’m going to go ahead and draw a line in the sand.
I love Facebook. I’ve been posting there since April 16, 2007. And I believe Facebook should be insanely profitable, but Facebook is not the internet, nor should it be. Chris Smith suggests this in a long status update on Facebook. “The Facebook I see today is now the Internet,” he writes. He posted it on Facebook to highlight his contention. And, with all due respect to Chris, I couldn’t disagree more. And I’m writing my response here, because I believe THIS is the Internet.
If people follow his advice to consider making Facebook their hub, I believe they will be abandoning what the internet was built to be and should be. I was going to write about this at length myself, but John Battelle beat me to it and, quite frankly, he is way more qualified than I’m ever going to be to write with the degree of critical thinking this topic deserves. My reaction to Chris’ post is strong, because I believe that what he’s suggesting here is abandoning the core values of the Internet.
What Are The values? Battelle list them as these:
- No Gatekeepers
- An Ethos Of The Commons
- No Preset Rules Of How Data Is Used
John writes, “I find it hard to argue with any of the points above as core values of how the Internet should work… But if you look at this list of values, and ask if Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and the thousands of app makers align with them, I am afraid the answer is mostly no. And that’s the bigger issue I’m pointing to: We’re slowly but surely creating an Internet that is abandoning its original values for…well, for something else that as yet is not well defined.”
Not all change is good.
Chris asks at the end of his status update, “Was it really so bad? Could it actually be better for us all that this can be done here in it’s entirety?” It depends on your internet worldview. In my worldview, the answer is decidedly, “no.” I have no desire for Facebook to be the Internet. Absolutely none. What will it take to insure the Internet continues to be a commons?
“It requires that we, as the co-creators of value through interactions, data, and sharing, take responsibility for ensuring that the Internet continues to be a commons, ” Battelle writes. “I expect this will be less difficult than it sounds. It won’t take a political movement or a wholesale migration from Facebook to more open services. Instead, I believe in the open market of ideas, of companies and products and services which identify the problems I’ve outlined above, and begin to address them through innovative new approaches that solve for them. I believe in the Internet. Always have, and always will.”
To THAT, I say amen. And I strongly encourage you to read the following posts by Battelle in their entirety:
It’s Not Whether Google’s Threatened. It’s Asking Ourselves: What Commons Do We Wish For? - “If we lose the web, well, we lose more than funny cat videos and occasionally brilliant blog posts. We lose a commons, an ecosystem, a “tangled bank” where serendipity, dirt, and iterative trial and error drive open innovation.”
We Need An Identity Re-Aggregator That We Control – “The downsides of not owning your own words, on your own platform, are not limited simply to money. Over time, the words and opinions one leaves all over the web form a web of identity – your identity – and controlling that identity feels, to me, a human right. But unless you are a sophisticated netizen, you’re never going to spend the time and effort required to gather all your utterances in one place, in a fashion that best reflects who you are in the world.”
Put Your Taproot Into The Independent Web – “Facebook knows that independence is critical to the future of the Internet, and has created tools to insure it’s a major player there. My advice: use those tools inside your own presence on the web. But put your taproot into soil that you control, soil that is shared by the millions of other independent voices on the web. That insures you’ll be part of a free and open ecosystem where serendipity and opportunity can create wonderful new possibilities.
Set The Data Free, And Value Will Follow – “f the true value of the economy we are building is to be unlocked, that value has to flow unchecked from one party to another. Were this to be true, differentiation of services would migrate to a higher level of the stack, so to speak. Services would be considered valuable for what they did with data given to them by consumers, rather than by their ability to lock consumer’s data into their proprietary platform. New models would emerge to reward those services for adding that value, and those models would be both more robust, and far larger than the “one ring to rule them all” model currently at play.”
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Creative Commons photo via Flickr by Steve Rhode