Facebook as the new “walled garden”

I have followed the world-wide-web as it relates to Telecom companies for it seems for ever (surely only 15 years? Ed). They were well positioned to use their relationships coupled with their ownership of the transport part of the internet value chain to become major factors in the internet space. It never happened. One of the criticisms, leveled at the Telcos was their insistence, early on, of operating a walled garden, where the Telcos controlled access and gave significant preference to specific applications (mostly their own or white-labeled from other providers).Walled Garden Consumers viewed this as restrictive and not helpful. It was obvious up front that the benefit of a walled garden was almost all Telco.

So where goes Facebook, in an opinion piece in this Sunday’s NY Times, Randall Stross makes a number of strong points – how Facebook has changed and how its original premise has been lost, in its frenzy to become the de facto web.

The Facebook model of organizing the world’s information involves a mix of personally sensitive information, impersonal information that is potentially widely useful, and information whose sensitivity and usefulness falls in between. It’s a tangle created by Facebook’s origins as the host of unambiguously nonpublic messaging among college students.

The company’s desire now to help out “the world” — an aim that wasn’t mentioned on its “About” page two years ago — has led it to inflict an unending succession of privacy policy changes on its members.

People often talk about the two leading social networking sites in a way that sounds like they’re a single entity: FacebookandTwitter. But the two are fundamentally different. Facebook began with a closed, friends-only model, and today has moved to a private-public hybrid, resetting members’ default privacy settings. By contrast, most Twitter users elect to use the service to address the general public.

As I look at this, I see Facebook building its very own walled garden. I am reminded of a quote by George Santayana

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Photo courtesy of Ell Brown

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