Facebook, the new America Online?

Doc Searls has a new post about Facebook which I came across in Scoble's Link Blog. It mentions something that I've been thinking about too.

Is [tag]Facebook[/tag] the new [tag]America Online[/tag]? Here's what I mean: Back in the bad old days, there were services like AOL, [tag]Compuserve[/tag] which were very popular. I was a committed user.

Built-in information sources, built-in instant messaging, built-in ecommerce, built-in email, built-in search, single signon. Life was good. Nothing new to learn.

But of course we all use the web today which has disaggregated all these, taking advantage of open protocols and formats like HTTP, HTML, and so on. Now I can (and do) use Email from Google, Search from Google (hmm..) and oh yes, eCommerce from Amazon, Craig's List, Ebay, and on, and on and on. I can pick and choose and am not stuck with what AOL or Compuserve decides I need.

Over time AOL incorporated mini-versions of popular web sites to stem the tide. You could order books for example, from Amazon or Barnes and Noble (not sure which) but not both. Maybe you plan travel either with Expedia or Travelocity, but not both. Depends on who was able to make a deal with AOL.

We are seeing the exact same pattern develop in Facebook. Facebook has an API which AOL didn't have. But it's Facebook's API, not a web API, and that makes all the difference.

Think about what happens when MySpace and every other social network also has an API. And what happens when Google gets into the social graph business?

Here's Doc Searls take on it and what got me thinking:

"Here’s the problem. For me, anyway.

I believe the Net is an open place. Same with the Web.

I also believe private walled gardens on the Web are fine things. Nothing wrong with them.

My problem is when the former starts looking and acting like the latter. And that’s why I’m already tired of Facebook. The “friend request” list (top item to the left there) is one I’ve whittled down from a much higher number. If I could gang-whittle them, I might be more interested, but the routine still involves declining to check off which of many different ways I met somebody (”both owned the same dog”, “set up by a mutual ex-boss” or whatever), and other time-sucks. Not to mention that the site takes many seconds to load, or to bring up email, or whatever. At least for me.

The big challenge for Facebook, as it has been for AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and everybody else who ever ran a walled garden, is to make their “platform” something that sits on the Net and the Web, not something that substitutes for it. Facebook’s mail, for example, is a substitute. If there’s a way I could get Facebook mail with my IMAP or POP client, I’d rather do that. (Can you, by the way? I doubt it, but I dunno.)

Anyway, lif’e’s too short, and this list of stuff is too long. If you’re waiting for me to respond to a poke or an invitation,or a burp or any of that other stuff, don’t hold your breath. Or take offense. I’ve got, forgive me, better things to do." (from : Too much face(book) time)