It’s all about pointing

Robert Scoble has a bit of a rant today about the open web being dead and does a bit of trolling against Dave Winer and others who fight for open standards. He may be right. “Most people” may experience the web through closed systems like Facebook and Google+ rather than directly through blogs and RSS. Part of me feels that this is like AOL in the old days and that however attractive walled gardens may be in the short term the open web wins out in the long term. The other part of me wonders if it matters.

What is powerful about the web is our ability to find things and then indicate our feelings about them by linking to them. As David Weinberger says every link is an act of generosity. This may be a direct link from or blog or it may be a “like” in Facebook or a “plus” in Google+ – does it matter?

It matters when people start telling us what we can and can’t link to and that is the risk of proprietary systems. Much of the web is now “owned” by corporate interests and these, while they may provide most people with most of their experience of the web, will ultimately be eroded and replaced by the evolution of the web itself. I am reminded – yet again – of Bob Khan’s point that the hacker mentality will always stay ahead of those attracted to corporate or institutional thinking. Whatever the mass may do most of the time there will always be edglings and to claim that Facebook or Google have killed off the open web is naive.

One thought on “It’s all about pointing

  1. What Scoble has missed, in what was likely dinner party outburst about that time he was an idiot and scraped data from a trusted space, is that most people don't care about open or closed. They only care about easy versus hard – convenience is the natural selection marker of mass anything. It was never a war or battle for the common web, it is just nature taking it's course.He is wrong about the common web being dead, killed in 2008 because he failed to make Plaxo a name. The common web is still there but the conditions don't favour it right now, that will change – it always does. When closed, walled in, segregated becomes inconvenient the open web will bloom. Spring will come to the common web and the riot of colour will make facebook's grey silo less attractive.When most people find they can't view a photo pointed at by a friend in facebook that platform will become inconvenient. If they need to add strangers as friends just to see what everyone else is raving about the platform will be inconvenient.We are no longer in a time of conspicuous consumption rather a time of conspicuous experience. We love to share what we did and many like to flaunt it. Wealth is now thought of in terms of time and experience rather than cash and chattels. That is setting out what the future conditions will be: sharing, flaunting openly the richness of experience you've enjoyed. In those conditions a closed platform relying on ever more complex granular access controls will be inconvenient. Further, we will rethink the value and I'd wager we're more likely to change what we put on any platform rather than who can see it.The common web will become convenient and good enough for what many people want. They will have a simple control – if you want to keep it from anyone don't put it on there, save it for the closed platform. Eventually so little will go into the closed platform that it's value to the user will evaporate. Sure, billions will still use facebook, probably as email (the young ones don't do email I hear).The internet is an ocean, it ebbs and flows. There are no boundaries, no walls that can withstand the ocean's movement indefinitely. Some are eroded, some collapse and some serve no purpose when they eventually contain just a stagnant puddle.


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