David Weinberger asks a thought-provoking question on his blog.
I spent some time this week with Joe Hewitt who was in NY and one of the things we talked about is how stalled the web is. Joe is a brilliant young technologist, with an impressive track record. He works for Facebook.
We were making richer software than the stuff you can run in the web browser 20 years ago. The only problem was that it didn't network well. Had Apple been more like TBL, and not tried to lock up their networking software, to make it so hard to develop apps that ran on their network, there might have never been an explosion of networked creativity on the Internet -- there wouldn't have been a need for it.
There are lots of ways progress gets held back. One of them is the W3C, the organization that owns the standards of the web. It's controlled by huge companies, so that forces new companies like Facebook to do their innovating outside of the web. It forced RSS to happen outside the standards bodies. And there are pitfalls to gifting your creations to the universe, you get exploits like Feedburner. You could devote your whole career to studying the might-have-beens, and you wouldn't get any closer to knowing how it all should work.
Whether you like him or not, Zuck is a creative guy. He pushed his creativity out through the only channels we made available to him. You can't blame him for that. It's sub-optimal, it might even be wrong -- but what else could he have done?
Having learned my lessons from blogging, RSS and podcasting, and TBL's experience with HTTP and HTML, I would have done the same thing. It was naive to believe that just giving away the formats and protocols would leave me free to keep innovating. Doesn't work that way. Once a market develops, the product is taken away from the creative people and owned by the VCs and managers at the big tech companies.
I'm giving a talk at the NY Times later this month, and this is what I'm going to say to them. Don't be fooled by the hype of the tech industry, the rules aren't what they say they are. It's much more cut-throat. I give Zuckerberg a lot of credit for putting his plan out there for all to see. That's a lot more than Google or Apple has done.