Summary: A Google executive believes that Facebook is becoming “a closed walled garden” and will soon end up like AOL and IBM: it will have to completely change its business in order to survive.
Vint Cerf, Google’s chief internet evangelist and the designer of TCP/IP, warns that Facebook’s “closed” architecture means the company will eventually fail to keep up with the public’s desire for the flexibility of an open standard. Speaking at an event organized by The Guardian, Cerf said that Facebook was at risk of following the path of companies such as AOL and IBM, suggesting the social networking giant has no long-term future.
His comments come in the same week that Google released Google+ as a public beta. Also this week, Facebook released its updated News Feed, the Ticker, and hosted its f8 developer conference where it announced a new Timeline feature to replace the current profile.
Cerf said AOL began in the 1980s as “a walled garden model” that “persisted for quite a while until the users of AOL forced it to be made accessible to the internet” – the company’s original business model of providing its own version of the Internet became irrelevant and it had to transition into an online publisher. He also noted IBM’s proprietary networking systems were rendered obsolete after it was forced to adopt Internet technology for its computers because “users didn’t want to be locked in” to one brand of hardware.
Facebook is becoming “a closed walled garden” and its problem is that the “ability to connect to people inside the walled garden” will be overwhelmed by “a desire to interconnect” to other social networks and websites, according to Cerf. If Palo Alto is going to reach such a point, it’s not happening anytime soon. The company recently passed 800 million active users and is expected to make $4 billion in revenue this year.
The Google executive is likely referring to Facebook’s insistence on not letting any other service access its data, which the search giant is particularly annoyed by. The social networking giant, meanwhile, is slowly getting better at sharing with others: it recently started supporting microformats for your exported Facebook data and plans on pushing out official Twitter support soon.
Cerf uses Facebook, but notes he was “mortally insulted” unhappy when the social network began blocking friend requests because he had too many friends. After complaining to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, he was allowed to increase the number of his friends, but this left him overwhelmed with information about “what these friends were doing” – news he conceded “I couldn’t care about.” Cerf’s solution was of course to use Google+ and its Circles feature, which he argues gives people more control over who they share news and personal information with.
Facebook and Google have a complicated history, but recently their disagreement has become much more heated. The two Internet giants are essentially fighting a social war, one in which the only clear winner is the consumer.