A few days ago, Jason Gorman tweeted that he thought social networks should work like email – a set of common standards that no one company owns and controls. It fits in with my thinking that the walled-garden approach taken by Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn is not a good thing. It may make it easier for those companies to monetise their services, but confining content and relationships to proprietary silos is a bad thing for the web as a whole. You risk ending up having to use the web equivalent of seven telephones.
I’d prefer to see an ecosystem of collaborative applications each of which focusses on doing one thing and doing it well, using open APIs and common standards like RSS. I’d love to see a separation between applications that focus on hosting content, be it micro-blogging, photo-sharing, discussion forums or friend list management, and those that aggregate, filter and display that content. Each can adopt whatever financial model makes sense for whatever it is they’re trying to do.
The irony is that’s how Twitter started out, encouraging a large number of third parties to build applications using their users’ data, then shutting down the APIs and killing off those apps once their user base reached critical mass.