Archive for March 2008

What to ask of Yahoo, Google and Microsoft – the key thing   Leave a comment

Here is a paramount example of a distant onlooker seeing the forest more clearly than insiders see the very trees.
On its current – March 22nd 2008 – issue, "The Economist" has published both a news article and an editorial comment about Internet history repeating itself, this time on social networking and virtual worlds. (Note: based on their publishing policy, links above may change or become restricted over time.)
The basic idea is that new services, after being born proprietary, evolve towards open standards to become better accessible, so more pervasive, so more powerful and effective. This despite, or even because, they have no viable business model of their own.  
So what? We have all heard and thought about this already: the Compuserves and AOLs of the world embracing the open internet for basic mail, chat, collaboration and other services – then all but disappear there. Clearly the Second Lives and FaceBooks of today’s world see the writing on the wall, don’t they?
As we all look at that wall, two obvious questions arise:
  • what is the writing in the first place?
  • who will make it happen?

Obvious answers I embrace are:

  • to be really useful, social networking and virtual worlds will need to become more tightly integrated with our most prevalent IT user experience. See for instance LinkedIn’s plug-in for Outlook, still somewhat awkwardly helping you mesh social networking information with your correspondence. See also FaceBook’s pull to get you and friends to update time-sensitive information and so visit more often, and LinkedIn trying to match.
  • Now, user experience has been and will likely be the domain of the Yahoos, Googles and of course Microsofts of the world for a while – even as multiple other players compete with their own and contribute to those at the same time.

How likely is this? How complex?

The most obvious comparison to my mind is with the .NET/Java choice, when in the very late 90s Microsoft chose to build its own alternative to Java: 10 years later, Microsoft arguably has won a battle that arguably matters much less that when it started.

What can drive things differently this time? Well, today individuals – consumers, users – have a much bigger say in how enterprise and web IT are evolving than they used to have 10 years ago, also because they are paying so much of it directly through advertising.

Let us keep pushing and lobbying for our preferred providers to keep opening up their services to competitors and third parties, and federating them, even as they push to make them better or best when used within their near-proprietary environment. This will make all these services better and better for all of us.


Posted March 24, 2008 by Gianluca Marcellino in Computer e Internet

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