Facebook: Open or closed?

Something David N Wallace said in his recent post triggered this train of thought.

There are people who think that Facebook is too open. And there are people who think that Facebook is too closed.

The Too Open crew tend to take a risk-averse enterprise view, and concern themselves with archival and retrieval and regulation and privacy and confidentiality and all that jazz.

The Too Closed crew concentrate on issues like absence of RSS, API restrictiveness, inability to export stuff out from Facebook, and so on.

The median age for Too Open is probably Generation X. The median age for Too Closed is probably Generation Y.

Ay, there’s the rub.

17 thoughts on “Facebook: Open or closed?”

  1. I am kick starting things off: why do you assume that GenX would think Facebook is too open while GenY would think it is too closed?

  2. I think the Gen X/Gen Y distinction is bunk. It’s not the distinction that matters.

    What you have described is a walled garden, not a platform. Without RSS, all this social life of the enterprise chatter, every event a transaction every moment a conversation, etc., is happy talk.

    No offense intended. I enjoy this blog and those are good notions. But I can’t help but think that Facebook is not a stream but a pool.

    Facebook as described is not the open road. It’s the mall. In this sense, Facebook is not new school, it’s the old school at its’ best. If you want to think of it in enterprise terms, it’s Outlook for people still searching for a better Friendster. And Outlook wins because it’s closed, not open.

    The Gen X and Gen Y people have the same concern: We can’t get our stuff out of this beast. Me and my contacts are stuck in this Galleria forever. Or, most realistically, they say to themselves, “This reminds me of last Easter when I spent the entire day finally getting Grandma out of AOL.”

    Facebook is not the free-range Web. It’s the latest flavor of the Web processed to a pulp for merchandising. Nice digestible bits well-packaged. And no CDs in your mailbox.

    So, let’s congratulate these guys for a job well done and keep reading Variety for the news that a studio has a Facebook movie in development tentatively title…wait for it…”You’ve Been Poked.”

  3. Tom – you’re dead right; “GenX/GenY is a gross generalisation at best and is not always a chronological measure, but I’m not sure that this invalidates JP’s point … as I said, I fall in the “too closed” group, which is just one way that I exhibit GenY attitudes/behaviours (despite being an aging Boomer!).
    Now, I DO have a FB profile (as does JP) – I was finally attracted by the “open platform” move a couple of months ago. However I am still ambivalent for many of the reasons you mention …

  4. Paul – you aren’t the exception, Facebook is a walled garden. It’s popularity with developers is probably partly due to the ability to raise VC, write and monetize facebook applications.

  5. I think the question should also be one of ownership. I think many enterprises see sites like Facebook as being part of the world wild web. Management belong to the Too Open crowd, Facebook is beyond their contol, their compliance procedures. Employees and the tech guys fall in with the Too Closed crowd, they want to exploit with these tools, mash them up, Generation M pushing through.

    Several years ago blogs and wikis were frowned upon and misunderstood by companies. Now look where they are, integrated into the corporate world in surprising places – CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are blogging, financial institutions are using wikis.

    One of the important factors that has allowed these previously frowned upon technologies to take root behind the corporate fence is that they can be bought in as appliances and SOAS. ‘Search in a Box’ by Google. ‘Wiki in a Box’ by Socialtext.

    “Owning” the technology allows management to be more comfortable in allowing employees to exploit the possibilities. Open and closed at the same time.

    So how long until we can buy Facebook, or an equivalent, for the enterprise? Internal Facebook could impact on existing software that all enterprises already have – phone books, meeting organisers, CRM tools and so on. Once that happens the open/closed debate will be partially resolved.

    Roll on ‘Social Networking in a Box’.

  6. Dec, we can get wikis, blogs and search engines that are deployable in the enterprise. We haven’t had as much luck with the equivalents of del.icio.us, flickr and craigslist so far. There are bits of deployable software out there (including IBM and Microsoft software if that’s your cup of tea), but none is nearly as successful in the enterprise as their public equivalents.

    Don’t know exactly why, but I know Joshua Schacter has said he’s not interested in a deployable version of del.icio.us.

    Interesting point.

  7. I’ve been stuck in this loop for some years now, the open-versus-behind-the-firewall argument. For years I supported the BTF side. Over the last two years I’ve changed. I am now far more interested in the outside-in no-BTF-instance side.

    Why? I think it has to do with customers. It has to do with partners. It has to do with supply chain. We are extended enterprises that need to become more customer centric, and I think we’ve been getting this wrong.

  8. I want to agree with you, JP. I want to believe that we are extended enterprises becoming more customer centric, and therefore should ignore the firewall issues. I want to live in a corporate environment with porous boundaries and radical collaboration across enterprises.

    However, the reality is that technology moves tremendously faster than corporate policies and (especially) government regulations. There are significant benefits to be gained from enabling capabilities like wiki’s, del.icio.us, facebook, etc, for use strictly by employees. If the option to deploy within the firewall allows us to sidestep the regulatory issues and deploy faster, then I am inclined to be a pragmatist and go with it.

    It is a sad situation when the expedient thing is to stand up your own hosted environment. Much better (by which I mean faster and nimbler and, I suspect, cheaper) when you can use an ASP like salesforce.com.

    But there it is. :)

  9. Facebook has RSS. You just have to turn it on under PRIVACY.

    Remember, facebook is not a walled garden – it has a gate that you can get stuff out. Only that gate is guarded by the members – if they don’t add you, you don’t get their content. if they don’t turn on RSS, you don’t get their feed updates in your reader or in your firefox browser toolbar. I set up Facebook Is/Not a Walled Garden on Facebook if you want more info and also have a few blog posts. :)

Let me know what you think