“Game over… Facebook is the new MySpace” (Jason Calacanis)

“This is already WAY BETTER than FriendFeed” (Scoble)

“Buzz exists because Google feels threatened by Twitter and Facebook and wants to kill them.” (Newsweek tech blog)

Most of the conversation over the last 24h has been centered around predicting if “Buzz will kill” this or that service. The unspoken assumption that lies behind this debate is that Buzz and the rest of the social web are mutually exclusive.

It’s arguably fair to assume that the leading companies are locked in a zero-sum, winner-takes-all game where the prize is total domination of the social web, considering all the social networks we’ve got so far are silos. To no longer assume everyone has to be using the same branded system to talk to each other is disruptive to the tech biz discourse, which is obsessed with turning everything into a war over which company is “the one”. So much so that the alternative is almost unthinkable.

If the new standards succeed, in 2015 we’ll look back on these debates and shake our heads like we shake our heads today at the early days of warring proprietary phone networks and email systems. The thought that you couldn’t call, text or email people (or companies, or public services) just because you happened to sign up with the wrong phone company or email provider is so blatantly a bad idea it’s absurd. Doubly so for the social Web where everything is already built on the same underlying protocol.

The reason many of the current commentators miss this point is that they are, in the immortal words of Walt Whitman, “demented with the mania of owning things.” (borrowing that quote from Doc Searls).

Let’s see through this entertaining controversy and not lose sight of the real enemy. This enemy is autocracy – the unlimited power of one leader over masses of people – and it feeds on fragmentation. There is a vision worth pursuing that’s bigger than Twitter, Facebook, Google, or any company. It’s the vision of a true global conversation. One of a world where I can tune in to a squabble between tribesmen in Congo and you can @-reply to a joke by a Chinese taikonaut. It doesn’t matter that they’re registered on services we’ve never heard of, speaking in languages neither of us can understand. We can still discover them, follow them, and have a conversation. Because they, like we, are on the same social web.

Comments

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Jaakko Helleranta
February 11th, 2010 at 6:39 pm (#)

Good points, again.

I think “the masses” are still quite stuck with the “old reality” from human history thatrequired big systems to organize anything more significant. The recent successful cases of “Open” this-and-that haven’t been able to change the mindset of the masses, it seems. Not yet, at least, that is.

Is it “big corporation X” or Us as in me, you and them, that is the question!

Lasse Enersen
February 11th, 2010 at 7:19 pm (#)

I am on “email terms” with probably 1% of my Facebook friends. This is the problem I have with Buzz.

Richard Lusk
February 11th, 2010 at 7:42 pm (#)

Amen.

Arthur
February 11th, 2010 at 9:11 pm (#)

Here’s a new Firefox extension for Google Buzz (made within the first 24 hours): http://bit.ly/95QSjB

Bertil Hatt
February 11th, 2010 at 10:22 pm (#)

Amen, indeed.

I’m very keen on the technical aspect of this (well, I’m supposed to be if I don’t want my PhD advisor to kill me for never fininsh that little projet) — but I love how you seemlessly connected it to translating features, and I’m eager to see Open Standards for translation too.

What would be cool is that you actually find an innocent victim of that idea (if it could be some obscure Asian language site, all the better) to demonstrate both that your intentions are to turn Social Web into somethign as diverse as e-mail clients, and that they’ll be great surprises on the way.

Don’t forget the later part for Open Standard: cooperation and non-zero-sum-game are great, but surprise is the magic spark that will help us sell the story to mean finite-game VCs.

Jyri
February 12th, 2010 at 12:39 am (#)

Google engineer DeWitt Clinton (a friend and my former office mate at Google) has a great post up on Buzz about the open standards effort. Here’s an excerpt:

“The best way to get a sense of where the Buzz API is heading is to take a look at http://code.google.com/apis/buzz/. You’ll notice that the “coming soon” section mentions a ton of protocols—Activity Streams, Atom, AtomPub, MediaRSS, WebFinger, PubSubHubbub, Salmon, OAuth, XFN, etc.

What it doesn’t talk much about is Google. That’s because the goal isn’t Google specific at all. The idea is that someday, any host on the web should be able to implement these open protocols and send messages back and forth in real time with users from any network, without any one company in the middle.”

It’s worth reading the whole conversation thread.

Jyri
February 12th, 2010 at 1:05 am (#)

@Arthur I just installed your plugin. Cool.

Richard Lusk
February 12th, 2010 at 6:27 am (#)

@Jyri. Yes. Great thread. Thanks for pointing it out. Good stuff going on over there at Google.

Arthur
February 12th, 2010 at 6:05 pm (#)

@Jyri Hope you like it!

Michael
February 12th, 2010 at 7:42 pm (#)

It seems to me that the big difference here is persistence. That is: with email, the recipients are enumerated and each is responsible for hosting their copy of the received messages. But with public social networking I’m not sure how that goes. I mean, for your established friends you could basically aggregate feeds. But how does the discovery process work? How do you find new friends, or browse location-based feeds, without depending in one provider?

Perhaps it looks like a Usenet store and forward model, and a user subscribes to a social aggregator service as part if their Internet service. Perhaps Google has addressed this.

Janne
February 12th, 2010 at 9:37 pm (#)

Facebook, Qzone, Habbo, MyScace, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Buzz… and list goes on. There are N social networks existing and most likely one or two appears and disappears every day.

It is easy to agree on the argument that companies are creating silos. Of course they are since fundamental drivers for business is to win market place with their offering. For some reason these silos are considered as bad thing. As an solution, for alleged problem of silos or “total domination”, web community is trying to standardize the social networks.

To me it does not make too much sense. Social (Inter)networks are places where people communicate and have conversations in context of the Social Network. Analog of early days of mobile communication where people could not call from one cellular carrier to other have nothing to do with social (Inter)network world. You can join almost any community if you want you. More proper analogue can be found from social (realworld)networks.

You are most likely to have totally different type of conversations with your friends 2AM in night club than with the same people during coffee break on a working day. There is no need to standardize and have means of transferring all conversations, actions, status updates, of previous evening of Night Club social (realworld) network to Work social (realworld)network. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”.

In a similar manner there is no real(time) need to share conversation of Facebook “cocktail party” social (Inter)network to LinkedIn “work place” social (Inter)network. Social network is a place. Some stuff is relevant only in certain places.

Clubs, restaurants, work places, parks, public places and private places are de facto silos. It is not bad thing to have clubs, everyone is not interested in hanging in a park, some of us want to go to slow food restaurant for others faster is just ok. No standards are needed, just freedom to select where to communicative, where to have conversations.

And yes if you want to have conversation with tribe man in Congo silos can do that as well. Just enter the Tribe silo and keep the conversation live.

As last: My contribution to social network silos is an other short url generator http://1d.fi this time dedicated for sharing the location. This entry was written here: http://1d.fi/19M2rXREUm

J.A

Johan Sellstrom
February 16th, 2010 at 8:40 am (#)

I put together a few notes about how we could base the distribution on good old email as well. Do we really need the real time aspect? In Buzz it is just annoying when stuff pop up while you are reading.

You are already forced to trust your email provider so there would not be any further privacy concerns with such a solution.

Otherwise I agree with the obvious choice of protocol stack that Google is advocating.

semanticmail.org

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