A few months ago, Rob Diana posted on RegularGeek about the hazards of having only one Twitter or one Facebook. Whenever there’s a service that is important to us, and is without competition, consumers are in a disadvantage:
Unless you live under a rock, you have heard that there were massive DDOS attacks that affected Twitter, Facebook and a few other sites. The sites affected had varying degrees of success in staying functional, but Twitter seemed to be the hardest hit. Given that Twitter was having issues for most of the day, many people migrated to other services like FriendFeed. However, FriendFeed is not an alternative microblogging platform, it is a completely different type of site. So, what can we do if Twitter goes down?
If Twitter goes down, the blogosphere reacts as if the world is ending. It may be a bit much, but Twitter has become a mainstream application. When it goes down, a lot of people know about it. Can we avoid downtime? Probably not, but there are ways to work around this problem. First, Twitter could itself become distributed. Similar to software like email, why not have several Twitter installs around the world that all talk to each other?
Here’s the thing: Once you have a winner in social-networks such as Facebook, or in real-time web such as Twitter, it changes the economy in those markets. The network effects of these products makes them extremely hard to defeat. Today, instead of fighting with Facebook and creating a competing social-network, it makes much more sense to compete within the Facebook economy (this is the angle that Zynga and iLike are playing).
Facebook and Twitter, mainly because of their APIs, are becoming economies, and there’s no backup system in place. If Twitter decides to shut down third party clients, so only official Twitter client with official Twitter ads are used, they’ll can do it. Users have no-where to go.
Proprietary is Evil
The internet technology stack is built on openness and sharing. Packet routing is a basic pay-it-forward mechanism where each server does its best effort. Firefox and other open-source projects got a huge boost through the shared efforts of many, and they are creating much needed competition to some evil monopolies. Currently, the leading social companies are (quickly!) becoming monopolies.
And the web prefers good over evil:
Wave can fight Evil
Wave is coming with its own set of open protocols. If you want to create a Wave provider that competes with Google, you can. That’s good because (repeat with me): Where there’s competition, the consumers win.
Here’s a short difference by example between the Wave protocols and the old social media services:
- Email is a protocol. If I don’t like my email service provider, I can switch. It’s a hassle, but not impossible. Technology allows for competition. Competition drives the market. We win. When Gmail announced they are giving 1GB of storage and a new interface, suddenly everybody was innovating their email clients.
- Instant messaging is a service. When instant messaging just started, I was using ICQ. I hated ICQ, but I couldn’t move until my friends moved. I liked Messenger, but had to move when my friends started using Gtalk. I can’t chose.
We need to build many Wave servers. We need competing Wave providers. We need to hook Wave into the existing APIs of the social-media services. We need to allow consumers to move from the monolithic services to the distributed technologies, without losing their connections. Once we are on the Wave, no one will be able to keep us away from our real-time web and from our friends. You can’t Fail Whale email, you can only Fail an email provider.
By moving from services to protocols, we can turn the Fail Whale into a Prevail Whale.