Now a second thought: billions of people can use email and not have to be part of one, single, organisation. How can that be?
Email is essentially a protocol. It’s called SMTP and is described by various RFCs. Any server that supports the SMTP protocol can advertise its MX record via DNS and receive email for that domain. Any client that ‘talks’ SMTP can send email to any SMTP server (it can reach). In fact, the SMTP client (or email client) can talk to its local SMTP server which will then forward on the email to its final destination. This is, of course, a distributed system. Due to an open protocol anybody can set up an email server and play in the big email ecosystem.
Om vervolgens aan te geven waar we nu staan:
But the main problem with Facebook is that, in order to do Facebook with somebody else, you have to have an account at Facebook.com. It’s a closed system. Notice the difference to email? I don’t have to have an account at (the fictitious) email.com to send emails to other people. That would be absurd!
En, niet heel erg onlogisch, dit is waar we wat hem betreft uitkomen:
History has a habit of repeating itself. Remember CompuServe? AOL? MSN (pre-internet)? CIX? These were all silos. CompuServe had special pages only subscribers could see. Of course, they all went the way of the dinosaur, or were heavily modified, because the Internet was more useful. And Facebook is simply a better CompuServe or AOL.
Maar hoe dan? Nou zo:
So back to Facebook and silos? I definitely want to put an activity stream (or lifestream) on the web. I currently use twitter for that because so many of my friends do. I also want to be able to put the odd photo up, publish a free/busy calendar, and enable old friends and new ones to find me and get in contact. But I don’t want Facebook to own that information. I want to own it. I want it under my own control, possibly in my own appliance running somewhere on the net. A distributed system that talks to other systems to exchange the data all under my control, with my privacy settings which won’t suddenly change because an over-arching corporation needs to sell more of my privacy.
Het gaat nog wel even duren voordat we zover zijn, maar net als Alex heb ik er geen twijfel over dat de toekomst van de sociale netwerkdiensten (de bedrijven, niet de functies) er anders uit zal zien dan het heden:
Of course, it is coming, and there’s even some competition in the space. onesocialweb and Diaspora are both trying to solve the Facebook problem. The Freedom Box project, inspired by Eben Moglen, is also trying to work in that space. These will be tools that work in a distributed fashion.
When will it displace Facebook and Twitter? I think the jury is definitely out on that one; AOL, MSN, Compuserve, MySpace: the Internet is littered with the corpses of previously all-mighty corporations that owned the space.