Friday, January 04, 2008

Facebook: The Roach Motel of Social Media

I have been on Facebook for 3 months and although my next comment will instantly brand me as tragically unhip, I find it a complete waste of time. I keep on expecting some sort of mystical Web 2.0 insight if I just stick with it for another week - instead, I just get more confirmation that Facebook is more of a step backwards than a step forwards.

This last week brought another blogger-driven Facebook tempest in a teapot when Robert Scoble tried to synchronize his Facebook contacts with his Plaxo contacts. Facebook shut his account down, drawing howls of protest from Kara Swisher at the WSJ and a typically thoughtful rebuttal from Nick Carr. By the way, Facebook already supports a one-way import of gmail contacts into Facebook.

There are two interesting points from an Enterprise Web 2.0 perspective here:
  1. There's no lock-in like SaaS lock-in. Software as a service offers a spectacular downside in the case that the service provider doesn't like the way you are trying to extend their service. At its most extreme, closed SaaS is the Roach Motel of enterprise software - your data and logic may check in, but they're never coming back out, as I wrote here.

  2. Scrape-ability will be an increasingly important battleground: I sit on the board of Kapow, a company that has powerful tools for gathering data from public web sites. If those web sites block access by bots (this is what happened in the Scoble kerfuffle)
In short, much of what is presented as Web 2.0 magic is really just lipstick on a tired old Web 1.0 pig. Here are three examples:
  1. Microsoft Silverlight: everything bloated and retro about Windows brought to Internet Explorer. Silverlight, despite its technical innovations, is yet another attempt to assimilate the recalcitrent web beast into the Microsoft borg.

  2. Adobe flex: everything proprietary and designer-wonkish about Flash brought to any browser. Given that enterprise developers are more interested in formatting data than getting their company logo to spin and then fade, making the design-heavy Flash language an enterprise standard is a lost cause.

  3. Facebook: if you liked AOL, you're gonna love Facebook! Facebook represents a cautionary tale for enterprises looking at SaaS solutions like SalesForce and Netsuite - make sure you have an ironclad way to get your data and logic back out!
ps to be fair, I do enjoy one application on Facebook, ilike, because it tells me when artists like Ryan Adams and Emmylou Harris are playing in San Francisco.


Anonymous said...

I've only been on FB a few months. And I do find it useful, as a way of connecting with new people or re-connecting with people I have not seen for a while.

For me, it works far better than the very rigid (boring) LinkedIn. People seem to spend time on FB, and login daily to keep profiles updated. It's more fun then LI, and exposes a more human side of an individual than LI does.

My own FB is a case in point, with my friends coming from business (the CEO of Reuters is a friend, as are you, Chris), music, family, and - just friends.

Hugely important in my life? No. But a waste of time ... certainly not.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, and on the issue of data ownership - are Roger's friends his or FB's etc. I wonder whether this is Evil FB at work, or just Stupid Chancer FB?

It also made me think of something else ...

Way back last century, a company called Reuters developed a system called Monitor. It allowed banks to contribute information, such as FX rates, to it, and published those rates to others.

Now, one might have thought those rates belonged to the banks ... but no, that wasn't the case. In fact, Reuters SOLD the data back to the contributors.

And they are still doing it!

Christopher Keene said...

Pete - ok, I have to admit that the ilike application is pretty cool, particularly the part that tells you when your favorite artists are coming to town.

I think I am just arguing that there will be powerful forces for Facebook to unlock at least some of their data - Reuters never had to undergo this kind of public debate about what they could and couldn't do with their data.

More importantly, it was not possible for a couple of college students to create a credible competitor to Reuters during their summer break!