Facebook and Google are getting a lot of attention these days. Everyone, including myself, seems to have a take on it and the urge to write about it. It is time to step back, observe and try to understand what is causing this.
The CEO’s of rivalling companies are falling over each other, often like little children. Personally I like Steve Ballmer best (seriously), he is such an incredible promoter. Just look at his great response to John Battelle’s question on search here, or his quote on Android being a paper tiger for now. Business week summarises a few here (including one of my comments :-)). Or how about Mark Zuckerberg, the man that seems to have gained a pop star status with his incredible success in growing Facebook to 50Mln users. On top of his success he seems to have stated that the user really has no choice when it comes to SocialAds.
If the Internet has brought us one thing it is the ability to start a hailstorm as a counter-force to the scooping blogging community reporting on the successful initiatives or people. The first hacks on OpenSocial have already been reported, as well as a recipe to block SocialAds. 100 Year old laws have been dusted off to explain that Facebook SocialAds are illegal. And some even started a countdown for the downfall of Facebook :-).
Web 2.0 brought us an explosion of innovations in social networking services. The biggest contest ever for the attention of the user. Web 2.0 companies create phenomenal free services and show unprecedented user base growth. It is all about eyeballs, who has the most users, the largest network. The waves of success were driven by free services. The question how create revenues being the last to answer. But with the success of all these services, monetization becomes an issue. Pressure is now on all the successful CEO’s, how to make revenues that live up to the incredible valuations being drawn up? The way out is provided by the advertisement business, nearly $ 42 Bln is predicted to be available in 2011 in the US only. It is this pile of money available that provides everyone a way out. It is the golden pot at the end of the rainbow that can be used to pay for the costs of free services and to justify incredible $15 Bln valuations of successful web 2.0 companies.
So why the emotional responses, why the polarising blog posts on these matters? Is it jealousy, because some are more successful than others? Maybe, but I am inclined to think it is something else.
I think it is because we are finally starting to realise that everything comes at a price. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Your “free” Facebook account is payed by SocialAds. Your perceived secure privacy on social networks isn’t as secure as you might have thought. The service you thought was build for your needs is now turning into an ad machine. One that takes your personal information and relationships and uses these to provide you with ads that, luckily won’t feel like ads according to Mark Zuckerberg (phew, a relieve here).
These services need your attention, draw you in because it is free, but won’t let you out once joined. Try taking your personal belongings, your messages, your friends, your emotions with you from one service to the next. It can’t be done. It is the Catch 22 for web 2.0.
I think it is precisely this trap we have fallen into that is now delivering all these emotional responses on the web. We are finally beginning to realise that web 2.0 didn’t give us freedom at all. It provided a well disguised containment, a trap that lured us in. Beautiful sirens singing to us, backed up by bloggers, newspapers and magazines telling us it is all about you. And now with our saviour Mark Zuckerberg telling us that there is no way out. But Mark is getting a bit nervous with rivals like Google who, in perception at least, do offer a way out with OpenSocial and Android.
It is becoming clear to me now that the current web 2.0 generation needs a revolution. If we want to get out if this trap then there is, as always, only one way to do this. We have got to take control of our lives on-line. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Your data is yours! It isn’t Google’s, Facebook’s, or Microsoft’s. We need to start making so much noise about this that these guys will be forced to open it all up. And you have the power to do so. You can use the strength of the network that you have created yourself to protest and oppose this confinement. I can’t wait for the first protest groups on SocialAds to appear on Facebook. Let’s see how many supporters will join that. And don’t get me wrong. I am not against ads, but I do oppose to the idea that we currently have no freedom because of ads!
And in revolution, there are always new thinkers and leaders that can show us the way. My vote is with people like Doc Searl, David Recordon, Tim O’Reilly, Dick Hardt, Dave Winer and Rolf Skyberg. People that not just complain about this trap, but thoroughly understand it and provide possibilities to get out of it. There are $16 Bln reasons to get out if this web 2.0 advertisement trap and move into a new era of user centric thinking, of true interaction!
It is like President Jefferson already said so long ago: “Every generation needs a new revolution”.