It's time to open up networking, again
Sunday, June 17, 2007 by Dave Winer.
Last week I had a meeting with a serial entrepreneur who's working on a new company whose product is a calendar for social networks, or a social network of calendars, depending on which thread you pick up. It's basically a good idea, a no-brainer, because time and networking relate to each other. I have relationships with individuals, or any group of people I choose to meet with. Of course systems can work better if there's a way to express those relationships.
Earlier today I signed up for a service a friend works for, to try it out and give feedback. It's the 20th new service I've signed up for in the month of June (I made up the number, I don't know how many I've signed up for, but it's not far from 20). Every time I sign up, I have to enter the same pieces of information. We all know the drill, we all do it. There is even a social network of people who meet a few times a year to discuss this, but progress comes slowly, if at all.
Everyone is going ga-ga over Facebook, but like the people who hold out on Twitter, I'm not ready to give my life to a service that views me as a college student. My relationships are adult relationships. Okay, I probably won't even use Facebook when they offer me some realistic choices on labels for the arcs that connect me with people in my network, because what we really need is an architecture that allows anyone to add a tag to an arc, the same way we add tags to pictures on Flickr.
All these things point in one direction, esp Facebook. Closed systems are fine in the early stages of a new technology. They're the training wheels for a new layer of users and uses. But, as we always see, the training wheels eventually come off, explosively, creating new systems that throw out the assumptions of the old. Oddly, I think this is what's really behind the Fred Wilson thread, it has little to do with the age of the people, and has more to do with the age of the technology. (The personal computer was "invented" by a group of people, with wide ranging ages. Bill Gates was a teen, but many of the other people were adults. How old were Chuck Geschke, John Warnock and Paul Brainerd when Desktop Publishing came online? Tim Berners-Lee was in his 30s when he created the web.)
Eventually, soon I think, we'll see an explosive unbundling of the services that make up social networks. What was centralized in the form of Facebook, Linked-in, even YouTube, is going to blow up and reconstitute itself. How exactly it will happen is something the historians can argue about 25 years from now. It hasn't happened yet, but it will, unless the rules of technology evolution have been repealed (and they haven't, trust me).