Thursday, 21 May 2015

One-way content sharing

I'd like to know when and how the "roach motel" business model for online service providers will fall down again. Well, I say "again" because I think it's similar to the Compuserve and AOL "walled garden" business models of the early web. Those companies aimed to provide everything their users could ever want or need in curated collections, but the Weird Wild Web outdid them and they collapsed. These days, companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft are all vying to be the only service provider you need, but in a different way. Now they provide search, calendars, personal posts, email, maps (or some significant subset) and all their APIs are aimed at getting content in, but not letting it out. Google demonstrated their commitment to this model recently by shutting off external RSS feeds of each user's YouTube subscriptions, forcing tech-savvy users like me to go directly to YouTube instead of keeping up to date on my subscriptions via my feed reader. Content checks in, but it doesn't check out.

Can this business model succeed where the walled gardens failed? I don't know, but I kind of hope not. The one-way sieve operating here is strong, and it's difficult to disrupt. You can start yourself as a tiny content provider, but as long as the big players can suck in your content, they get all the same benefits without needing to change. If you don't allow them to pull you in somehow, then you wither and die because they are the gatekeepers of online attention now.

The only bump in the road I can see is if they start disrupting each other. If Facebook users want to start sharing content from there to Google+ for some reason, and they can't, and this problem grows larger, then Facebook has to cave to user demand, but this would just lead to them being swallowed up by Google, in my opinion. They need to defend this border or they die.

So I guess I don't have an answer. The only remaining idea is that these giants of the internet get too big to keep growing and break apart on their own, like some kind of Google Civil War. Perhaps a generation from now, when their founders are gone and the core ideals rotted from the inside, there will be a breakaway group that forms a new company, large enough to compete but small enough to react to the web we will have 20 years from now.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Whatever that will look like.
PPS - If I knew that, I'd be rich already.

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