Jason Calacanis, CEO of Weblogs and Master of New Media, took the lid off a noisy can of worms this week when he declared Facebook Bankruptcy, exhausted by his facebook chores of responding to endless invitations, requests and guilt trips. In sum, he says, “Folks have just opted in to another out of control inbox…. I'm opting out.”
This was all too much for Scoble, whose river of crocodile tears led to “Calacanis can't keep up with Facebook“. Scoble apparently manages more than 4,000 Facebook friends (including me – I'm down here somewhere) compared to Jason's mere 395, saying, “More of the best names in tech are on Facebook than any other social network Iâ€™m on.” and “Facebook is the new business card”. He sees Facebook as new age marketing. (Is this why half my homepage consists of Scoble videos? Just kidding…)
Nestled between the extremes is a piece by Rex Hammock, who I think gets it right when he says, “Facebook is a sandbox Iâ€™m playing in â€” but it has a long way to go before it can hope to be the world I live in.” He goes on:
“It should be noted, I am a fan of Facebook as I believe it is a great platform on which to experiment on a common platform many of the disparate tools and approaches to conversational media, identity, attention and community that I have spent the past decade trying to understand â€” by using them and, in some cases, living in them.
“But, as Iâ€™ve said before, unless weâ€™re all willing to give up everything else we love about the nature of the Internet, then Facebook is not the golden fleece (or holy grail â€” but since this conversation was started by someone named Jason, I thought Iâ€™d head in the direction of that metaphor).
“Frankly, Facebook is not even close to being what will ultimately be that thing which alters fundamentally the way in which we relate and communicate. It may show us the way, but there are some important factors related to personal identity and social interaction that Facebook â€” or any platform that requires us to create community that is locked inside a wall â€” will not be able to overcome if it is to become the next be-all, end-all.
“As academics and others spend their entire careers exploring and explaining the phenomena Iâ€™ve just alluded to in the previous sentences, I wonâ€™t insult them by trying to use this post to trivialize the nature of identity and community. (When it comes to exploring the issues surrounding digital identity, a good place to start is Kim Cameronâ€™s blog and his white paper called ‘Laws of Identity’.)”
Yes, identity is one of the keys. After talking about the evolution of the telephone from closed system to open universal, he adds:
“Until my identity and network can be as transportable (some use the term â€œpersistentâ€) and can follow me around from place to place and situation to situation and network to network, the â€œbreakthroughâ€ will not occur. Facebook may be a great sandbox to play in, but it wonâ€™t become the world I live in until my identity belongs to me, not them. My identity and network should be like an email address â€” it should work universally. And I should be able to take it with me.
“Part of this issue may be solvable with future generations of initiatives like OpenID, which attempt to address the obvious problem we all have in repeatedly going through the process of registering on every new site we encounter.
“But as it is today, the Facebook platform is not a solution. Itâ€™s just letting us play around until either they â€” or we â€” come up with the real deal.
“If I ran the Internet (or Google), I would do the following: I would get with Microsoft, Yahoo! AOL and the Mozilla Foundation and Ning and People Aggregator â€” and every other player or wannabe player in the field of social networking, identity, attention, whatever â€” and agree on open standards for those things â€” based on the principle that they should be controlled by the user, not the silos.”
Yet take a look through the Facebook APIs and I think you'll be surprised at how much has already been made possible. I'm impressed.
Facebook has had to provide access to the user's information in order to become an application development platform. And I need to underline that they should be congratulated for using email (e.g. universal) addresses as identifiers. As a result, the list of friends I download from Facebook will work with any other system that is based on email identifiers and uses validation of ownership of the accounts. I think that deserves a standing ovation.
While reading Rex's post I had a bit of an epiphany. In fact we need a wider suite of standards that make identity useful for building social networking applications, rather than just basic identity assertions (as important as these may be). Otherwise, what can you do once you've pushed out the walls of your garden? Not much.
We've reached the stage where we understand quite a bit about the taxonomy and requirements for this broader suite. It's time to think about what the core set of capabilities would include. What's most fascinating is the way “Here Are My…” info (are we talking OPML?) combines with identity to produce intense outcomes.
For example, your “Here Are My Friends” is definitely key. But look what happens when it is combined with their “Here Are My Videos”… You get the feed of your friends’ videos, and this cross-product really does turn out to be fun. Normally I'd link to a couple of examples on Facebook, but guess what? You can't go there without an account (duh!)