Over the weekend an interview with Google founder Sergey Brin was published in the Guardian. In it he says some things, about the open web, that are very true.
He says that Google was built out of the open web. And this part he doesn't say, but is also true. If Google is going to continue to thrive, so must the open web.
However, Google is moving away from the open web. Most of its investments are going to create a competitor to Facebook, although they deny it's just a competitor. From the point of view of the open web their system is just as opaque as Facebook is. Just as problematic.
I'm not suggesting that Google shouldn't compete directly with Facebook. They can do what they want. But they're big enough and rich enough that they could make investments in the open web at the same time as they invest in their fortress. If they really put their hearts in it, and their checkbook, and make a commitment to support open formats and protocols that gain traction, no matter where they come from, I have no doubt that the open web will flourish, and perhaps that will mean their silo will founder. I suspect that this is why, as an organization, they don't want to make these investments. But Brin is independent, powerful, an imaginative and a skilled techologist, and frankly rich enough, to do what he wants no matter what his organization dictates.
If so, since he is a computer scientist, as I am, let me put my advice in technical terms. If I need an API to access my data it's not good. If I hold my data in my own space, where I can do with it as I please, and at the same time it can be part of the structures Google builds, whether it is a search engine or a discussion board, then it works. Then we can try out a million ideas, and they can build off each others' momentum, and they all have a chance to be the next collaborative phenomenon. If APIs control access to the data, if my program logic has to flow through someone else's pipes, then there will be monoculture, and that never thrives. There are countless examples in the history of computers that illustrate this principle. If you want to know why it doesn't work, just observe how decisions are made inside Google.