I don’t usually respond so quickly to news. If you are familiar with my blog, it’s not a breaking news kind of blog. But the rumors that Microsoft might be buying Facebook are now quickly taking over TechMeme. Robert Scoble just wrote a response to these rumors. He is turning it into the battle of the century where giants Google and Microsoft are fighting each other over total control of the web. He says:
This has created HUGE value for Microsoft and has handed Steve Ballmer an Internet strategy which brings Microsoft from last place to first in less than a week.
Now Microsoft/Yahoo search will have access to HUGE SWATHS of Internet info that Google will NOT have access to.
Data portability is dead on arrival.
Microsoft just bought itself a search strategy that sure looks like a winner to me.
If all this is true there is no way in hell that Facebook will open up now.
It’s Facebook and Microsoft vs. the open public Web.
I don’t know if Robert is right about this. But I’m sure that both Microsoft and Facebook are capable of trying this. If they do, and really try to close of part of the Internet, then it will be a very expensive experiment that will be dead on arrival. There is no way that Facebook will be able to close off the Internet that way. Sure they can do it technically. I’m not even thinking about what about web developers will do. Already they are finding ways to punch holes in the Facebook walls. Google’s web crawlers might not get in there, but there will be other ways. But that isn’t what I’m betting on. I’m betting on something much more powerful. I’m betting on human nature.
In the end we don’t like to be held captive. We don’t like walled gardens. At first nothing might change. Some of the users that aren’t aware of the walls that are drawn up around them will figure it out. And they won’t like it a bit. And if they start a protest on Facebook itself, what can Facebook do? It is their strength (the community) that will defeat them at the end. You can only confign users within a walled garden service if the walls cannot (physically) be broken down. The mobile operators run one of the largest and most succesfull walled garden, it is called the mobile network. That can’t be easily broken down. But on the web I can’t think of a single walled garden that can’t be avoided or broken down.
So I’m not so worried about it. If Microsoft and Facebook want to close off part of the web, just let them. They can have it. But they will have to realise soemthing about that strategy. They don’t OWN the customer. They can try to lock them in, but in the end all they will be left with is one big walled garden with old data. The users will have moved on to something better.
I would rather hope that Microsoft would embrace the User Centric Web. Instead of locking users in, they should consider to set them free. The best business model any company can ever execute is the one that leverages user value. A business model based that locks users in is bound to fail.
PS. Robert loves Friendfeed and claims that will be the alternative to the Microsoft – Facebook content. That’ll be the day 😉