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”.
A great post as usual, emotional, bright indeed!
But don’t get me wrong – but there is not one generation in the web. I am 23 and most likely my relationship with the web will last a bit longer => I will see more innovation and interesting things coming online => I’m interested in the web gaining more and more capital, because I want the web to win. Every REvolution needs a sacrifice, and even a bigger sacrifice is requiered by Evolution (which I stand for). I agree to put some of my private info on the altar of the web. Yes, many of the dollars made on my data, will remain in Zuckerberg’s pockets. So what? He did it, I’m gald for him. If I had a chance to make money on someone’s private info in such (i really think so) delicate and polite way, I definetely would.
My biggest concern is innovation – there are so many technologies pending, waiting for the people to emrace them 🙂 And nobody wants them! Poor, poor techies 😦
P.S. I’m writing a post not so much about the cituation around social networks and ads, but more of my thoughts on oil, gas and the common business mentality, thinking to call the post “The last drop”, will twitter about it.
P.S. Maybe its because I’m Russian – many of us are allergic to the word “revolution” 😉 Our nation really suffered from them…
Hi Kirill, I guess you have just proved that I am already old generation 😉
I agree with you that there are many different people on the internet. Perhaps the current generation doesn’t mind the ad-economy as much. They are certainly more willing to provide personal information. But my problem with it, the fact that it enforces closed systems instead of open systems remains. Only by opening up, letting the user in full control of his data across any service or platform, he will be truly free. And the ad-based business model is by nature not an open system. We will have to wait and see what happens, but as the Ad revenue predictions increase, the pressure on users will increase as well. As an extreme case I’m thinking about Tom Cruise as he walks in a public space in the movie Minority Report. Via constant retinal scans he is bombarded with “personalised” ads. I don’t like that to be my future. Only when I’m looking for something ads will make sense.