The latest “shiny social object”: an open/controllable social network?

Poster inside a Facebook office

Well, I’ve been taking a lot of shots in the past few weeks for always covering the latest shiny social object. You know, first it was Twitter. Then Jaiku. Then Facebook. Pownce. On and on.

The critics say that either I’m late to the game, like with Facebook, or that I’m just too scattered and not looking for real value. Or that I don’t stay on one thing long enough to learn it well and add real value to my writings.

Fair enough. Although one thing I’d like to clear up. When I yammer on endlessly about Facebook that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped using any of the others. Twitter, for instance, is just a constant part of my life now.

Anyway, last night I was at the Facebook party aka “Lunch 2.0.” I met Mark Zuckerberg and his sister, Randi, and a ton of Facebook employees and executives. It is one of those parties that in about five years we’ll all be looking back on as a major inflection point in the valley. I stayed until the very end. In fact, even after the party ended a small group of us hang outside of Facebook’s offices and kept talking about what is going to happen in social networking.

One of the guys was John McCrea, vice president of marketing for Plaxo.

He told me that on Monday Plaxo i sgoing to turn on a new version. Ahh, a new “shiny social object.”

But then he explained why we should care: Plaxo is going to open up a new social network that’s both open as well as controllable. Translation: Plaxo is making a play for Facebook.

First, let’s go back to Facebook. Why does everyone say it’s a “walled garden?” Because you can’t get to data stored on Facebook unless you’re a Facebook member. Two days ago I did a video for Chris Pirillo on Facebook. Chris instantly got excited and wanted to share that with his blog’s readers. But he couldn’t. That video is locked inside Facebook’s walled garden. If you don’t have a key (a Facebook account) you can’t see it.

John told me that on Monday Plaxo will come out with a social network that gets rid of the walled garden.

Why did I say a couple of weeks ago that Facebook is a “data roach motel?” Because I can put all sorts of information about myself into Facebook (I could, for instance, tell you that I like “Daft Punk.” But, do I own that data? Can I get it out of Facebook? No).

John told me that on Monday Plaxo will come out with a social network that lets me own my own data and take it out of Plaxo and put it on other social networks.

Finally, I’ve been getting a few complaints about what I’ve been doing with Facebook. By turning Facebook into a professional networking tool I’m causing problems for people who saw it as a social tool to keep in touch with their college friends. See, Facebook for the first three years of its existence was mostly a tool for college kids to pass photos and other funny things around. Now, if you have photos of your frat party at college do you really want your new boss and coworkers to see those? Probably not.

But Facebook isn’t controllable. You can’t really have two groups of friends. One group that sees your drunken college frat photos and another group that sees you making presentations to your board of directors.

John told me that on Monday Plaxo will come out with a social network that lets me control which groups of friends (or family) that can see certain items.

OK, sounds like Plaxo is going to kill Facebook and bring down Facebook’s value by a few billion dollars. The bubble 2.0 will end. Zuckerberg will drag his tail away from the valley defeated. Etc etc etc. Right?

It’s not going to happen. Here’s why. It’s too late and the walled garden will keep people locked in.

Huh?

Sorry, Facebook already has momentum and a coolness about it that Plaxo doesn’t exude. I don’t really know how to explain the coolness without sounding really idiotic and goofy. That’s part of the 20-something vibe that Facebook has going for it right now. Oh, here’s a photo of me looking at the artwork in the Facebook offices. That might explain a little bit about it. There’s lots of other photos from the event last night here.

But it’s there and can’t be ignored. If John could explain to me how he’s going to get the world’s college students to look away from Facebook and toward something else maybe I’d go along with this “more open and controllable” Plaxo. My head is telling me that Plaxo is the way to go but my emotion tells me that Facebook is more fun.

The other thing is that BECAUSE of Facebook’s “closed” nature I’m not likely to leave it anytime soon. Why? Because if Facebook has 10% more content than the other networks do (which it will have because of the momentum that Facebook has today) that the more “open” networks will always seem lame in comparison.

But, on Monday I’ll try out the new Plaxo. I’m into “shiny social objects” and will report to you the pros and the cons. The problem, though, is that even if I get really excited about it my email is demonstrating that many of the world won’t be listening and won’t care.

What do you think?

After I get up this morning I’ll film a video explaining more of my thoughts and I’ll put that on my Kyte channel. For now Nokia’s CTO left me a little message there. I’ll do more stuff from the Always On conference today.

[kyte.tv 6118]

125 thoughts on “The latest “shiny social object”: an open/controllable social network?

  1. Dan (25): yes, I did and yes, they do. I’m sure they’ll change Facebook in response to competitive pressures too.

    They do see some of the closed nature of it as an advantage. Why? Anti-spam. They say that a lot of the walls they’ve put up is to defeat spammers. That’s one reason I love Facebook (I say that as I look at 70,000 spams that have been caught by akismet).

  2. “Next Shiny Object Syndrome” is what drives the ‘net. Let’s face it, DNS and FTP were killer shiny objects in their day, and we rely on them to this day. Okay Okay so was Gopher, albeit a slightly tarnished one, and it’s not holding our world together now – but in a way you can say that Gopher was the grandfather of the Web so yeah – NSOS drives almost all innovation in technology.

    kthxbye!
    (recognise the Shiny Object Formerly Known as LOLcats?)

  3. “Next Shiny Object Syndrome” is what drives the ‘net. Let’s face it, DNS and FTP were killer shiny objects in their day, and we rely on them to this day. Okay Okay so was Gopher, albeit a slightly tarnished one, and it’s not holding our world together now – but in a way you can say that Gopher was the grandfather of the Web so yeah – NSOS drives almost all innovation in technology.

    kthxbye!
    (recognise the Shiny Object Formerly Known as LOLcats?)

  4. Robert, Great post! When you were at this Facebook event, did you talk to the FB developers / mgmt about the whole “walled garden” issue? Do they see the point we are making? (If so, did they show any signs of doing anything to address the issue?) Or do they still view the “privacy” of the FB walls as an advantage? Or don’t they even seem to care? Just curious, Dan

  5. Robert, Great post! When you were at this Facebook event, did you talk to the FB developers / mgmt about the whole “walled garden” issue? Do they see the point we are making? (If so, did they show any signs of doing anything to address the issue?) Or do they still view the “privacy” of the FB walls as an advantage? Or don’t they even seem to care? Just curious, Dan

  6. Jack: I’m not on Facebook to collaborate. I think you’re missing what’s special about it if you’re looking for collaborative tools. But, collaboration will be a part of it, don’t get me wrong. There’s a ton of collaborative apps coming.

    And to compare Facebook to Groove? Please.

  7. Jack: I’m not on Facebook to collaborate. I think you’re missing what’s special about it if you’re looking for collaborative tools. But, collaboration will be a part of it, don’t get me wrong. There’s a ton of collaborative apps coming.

    And to compare Facebook to Groove? Please.

  8. Agree with your post, but what I really want/need is an open application that does a combination of Facebook/Blog/Flickr/Twitter or pownce with the flexibility to allow different groups to view different levels of information, or am i asking too much? That way I have one contact list to manage rather than several and save no end of time.

    Maybe I’m asking too much!

  9. Agree with your post, but what I really want/need is an open application that does a combination of Facebook/Blog/Flickr/Twitter or pownce with the flexibility to allow different groups to view different levels of information, or am i asking too much? That way I have one contact list to manage rather than several and save no end of time.

    Maybe I’m asking too much!

  10. I’m very interested to see what Plaxo comes up with on Monday. I got that feeling when Pownce was launched…that someone was finally building something i could really open up on, without any guard for who sees what etc…

    Unfortunately, although in that first week I managed to get a decent network of close friends going, activity at Pownce has died on its arse….for me (and for now) at least…

    At nakedyak.com I’ve been talking recently about the concept of Open Messaging. A lot of my thinking is on the same line as yours Robert, but there are some opposing points too. But it’s evolving, as is everything…and I can’t wait to see what forms social networks take in the oh so near future!

    ~biff~

    P.S. Thanks for putting me on to CoComment! Very handy indeed…

  11. I’m very interested to see what Plaxo comes up with on Monday. I got that feeling when Pownce was launched…that someone was finally building something i could really open up on, without any guard for who sees what etc…

    Unfortunately, although in that first week I managed to get a decent network of close friends going, activity at Pownce has died on its arse….for me (and for now) at least…

    At nakedyak.com I’ve been talking recently about the concept of Open Messaging. A lot of my thinking is on the same line as yours Robert, but there are some opposing points too. But it’s evolving, as is everything…and I can’t wait to see what forms social networks take in the oh so near future!

    ~biff~

    P.S. Thanks for putting me on to CoComment! Very handy indeed…

  12. Have a little too much Kool Aid last night?

    This is an example of you throwing it out there without much thought behind it. Yep, facebook is cool; however, collaborative products have been around for ages – so what’s the great leap? Think of Groove/Facebook/Notes/SharePoint/BlogSpot combos, MSN/AOL/all the other instant crap/blogs. Surely this is not a great leap. Some jaundiced eyes might help from time to time. Gee, who would have thunk that all of these network products (Plaxo, LinkedIn) etc would implement collaboration (asynch/synch) one day?

    >>Do more…think deeper<<

  13. Have a little too much Kool Aid last night?

    This is an example of you throwing it out there without much thought behind it. Yep, facebook is cool; however, collaborative products have been around for ages – so what’s the great leap? Think of Groove/Facebook/Notes/SharePoint/BlogSpot combos, MSN/AOL/all the other instant crap/blogs. Surely this is not a great leap. Some jaundiced eyes might help from time to time. Gee, who would have thunk that all of these network products (Plaxo, LinkedIn) etc would implement collaboration (asynch/synch) one day?

    >>Do more…think deeper<<

  14. Do you just love monopolies? I’d never store my information where I can’t get it back… plus I never saw a use for Facebook anyway.

  15. Do you just love monopolies? I’d never store my information where I can’t get it back… plus I never saw a use for Facebook anyway.

  16. Yes – it was easy to get people on board and then …… nothing. They went for cash before building a great platform. That is something that wins *bigtime* on FB. How about they all merge!? linkedfaceplax.com

    Maybe linkedin is relaunching as linkedout (domain under construction…) – an open version. They should at least pull in your blog feeds from the web and show them next to your profile…

  17. Yes – it was easy to get people on board and then …… nothing. They went for cash before building a great platform. That is something that wins *bigtime* on FB. How about they all merge!? linkedfaceplax.com

    Maybe linkedin is relaunching as linkedout (domain under construction…) – an open version. They should at least pull in your blog feeds from the web and show them next to your profile…

  18. I like that Facebook is a “walled garden” because there need to be truly closed doors on the internet that aren’t indexed by Google or other engines. This is what makes Facebook a bonafide platform for “open” corporate intranets because employees can meet each other, discuss, form groups, and etc while the company can control access of data to other parts of the community. In addition, the mobile aspect of Facebook allows employees to keep up to date with whats going on while on the road.

    @4 – I agree with you and am under the impression that certain applications on Facebook have started to do that. I am a proponent of keeping my data as secure as needed, with varying “tiers” requiring different levels of security. Recently I discovered that internet forms were being populated with my contact information, and was able to trace it back to a Facebook application. Disabling this application solved the issue.

  19. I like that Facebook is a “walled garden” because there need to be truly closed doors on the internet that aren’t indexed by Google or other engines. This is what makes Facebook a bonafide platform for “open” corporate intranets because employees can meet each other, discuss, form groups, and etc while the company can control access of data to other parts of the community. In addition, the mobile aspect of Facebook allows employees to keep up to date with whats going on while on the road.

    @4 – I agree with you and am under the impression that certain applications on Facebook have started to do that. I am a proponent of keeping my data as secure as needed, with varying “tiers” requiring different levels of security. Recently I discovered that internet forms were being populated with my contact information, and was able to trace it back to a Facebook application. Disabling this application solved the issue.

  20. Hey, you know you actually can control what your boss sees. On privacy settings, you can limit that person’s access to your profile. While a category wide tagging system would be easier and quicker, you can have “tiers” of friendship on Facebook right now.

  21. Hey, you know you actually can control what your boss sees. On privacy settings, you can limit that person’s access to your profile. While a category wide tagging system would be easier and quicker, you can have “tiers” of friendship on Facebook right now.

  22. Steven: last night at the party we talked about LinkedIn: consensus? Dead. Dead. Dead. (Keep in mind that whenever you hear a blogger say something is “dead” that he/she actually means “not relevant or interesting” or “not going to grow anymore.”).

    LinkedIn has to do something dramatic. Plaxo sounds like it’s doing it on Monday. They just took the “open/controllable” high ground away from LinkedIn.

    I personally HATE LinkedIn. I got off of it a year ago and am NOT going back.

    There was too much of an expectation that I’d introduce people to other people there (or send notes along). I hated that and Facebook doesn’t have that usage model. Facebook is also more fun because it’s more social.

  23. Just, well, a great post. A lot of my recent sentiments too – not that I’d want to take over yours of course ;-)

    I think (hope) FB’s strength will lie in that ineffable coolness, not in the songs you can take in our out with you.

    I’ve stopped using FB as a fun social networking tool the other day. It’s now my network, period. I’ll post pictures on Flickr and tell people what I’m doing on Twitter. I’m not running to Plaxo because it allows just that… but I’ll check it out just the same.

    I love it when a plan comes together.

  24. Plaxo is right on the money by allowing users to segregate their personal and professional contacts. This privacy issue is something that Facebook hasn’t tackled in an effective way. With more bosses jumping on Facebook, those college kids (who are now entering the professional world) are going to demand better privacy alternatives instead of having to wipe their profiles clean.

  25. Just, well, a great post. A lot of my recent sentiments too – not that I’d want to take over yours of course ;-)

    I think (hope) FB’s strength will lie in that ineffable coolness, not in the songs you can take in our out with you.

    I’ve stopped using FB as a fun social networking tool the other day. It’s now my network, period. I’ll post pictures on Flickr and tell people what I’m doing on Twitter. I’m not running to Plaxo because it allows just that… but I’ll check it out just the same.

    I love it when a plan comes together.

  26. Plaxo is right on the money by allowing users to segregate their personal and professional contacts. This privacy issue is something that Facebook hasn’t tackled in an effective way. With more bosses jumping on Facebook, those college kids (who are now entering the professional world) are going to demand better privacy alternatives instead of having to wipe their profiles clean.

  27. Steven: last night at the party we talked about LinkedIn: consensus? Dead. Dead. Dead. (Keep in mind that whenever you hear a blogger say something is “dead” that he/she actually means “not relevant or interesting” or “not going to grow anymore.”).

    LinkedIn has to do something dramatic. Plaxo sounds like it’s doing it on Monday. They just took the “open/controllable” high ground away from LinkedIn.

    I personally HATE LinkedIn. I got off of it a year ago and am NOT going back.

    There was too much of an expectation that I’d introduce people to other people there (or send notes along). I hated that and Facebook doesn’t have that usage model. Facebook is also more fun because it’s more social.

  28. Hi Robert,

    I guess unlike you and Loren & Jason, for a ZZZ-list blogger (anything lower than that?). I’ll just have to keep using FB and Plaxo until we see which one wins the 2.0 contest.

    IMHO, I’ve been using Plaxo only for contact syncing from my AddressBook.app and also as a backup and the in-case-I-am-not-on-my-laptop scenario to look up someone’s address.

    Like CJ said, FB has been around for a long time and it is really hard to keep moving friends around to different platform all over and every other week.

    Just this morning, I got another invite to Doostang, another LinkedIn. What the heck, I signed up anyway, but I highly doubt I’ll ever go back again…

    my $0.02

  29. Hi Robert,

    I guess unlike you and Loren & Jason, for a ZZZ-list blogger (anything lower than that?). I’ll just have to keep using FB and Plaxo until we see which one wins the 2.0 contest.

    IMHO, I’ve been using Plaxo only for contact syncing from my AddressBook.app and also as a backup and the in-case-I-am-not-on-my-laptop scenario to look up someone’s address.

    Like CJ said, FB has been around for a long time and it is really hard to keep moving friends around to different platform all over and every other week.

    Just this morning, I got another invite to Doostang, another LinkedIn. What the heck, I signed up anyway, but I highly doubt I’ll ever go back again…

    my $0.02

  30. CJ, Scoble isn’t “people”, he’s a techno-media-experimenter.

    The “imagine” scenario that you raise is a straw man. There’s obviously plenty of incompatibility between PC and Apple users right now – determined by the stakeholders, market forces, etc. It’ll be the same situation with the social networks.

  31. CJ, Scoble isn’t “people”, he’s a techno-media-experimenter.

    The “imagine” scenario that you raise is a straw man. There’s obviously plenty of incompatibility between PC and Apple users right now – determined by the stakeholders, market forces, etc. It’ll be the same situation with the social networks.

  32. Or we could all be like John Dvorak and just stick our heads in the sand. At least Robert (who is older than me!) is still young. He is willing to try new shiny social networks out.

    Will Plaxo over take Facebook? Doubtful, but I’m sure they will get millions of users that like them. There are plenty of social networks out there, and most will survive because the human is a social creature.

    Or again, you can be like Elton John (and I like Elton’s music!) – and just be cranky – shut down the internet – just shut it all down!

    Why? So we all can move back to the stone age of dial up and computers as big as a house?

    Rex

  33. I guess in history too, the most powerful networks have ended up being been closed ones, like the Masons… I think what you are hinting at here is that Plaxo is basically the kind of software an accountant would like, whereas Facebook is – even at its most innocent – essentially flirting by other means. That makes it a lot of sexy, by definition. That’s partly why it has the momentum it has right now. However, should Facebook have any more major outages, I think lots of people will start making sure they have some back-up plan for when it goes down/gets hacked etc etc

  34. Or we could all be like John Dvorak and just stick our heads in the sand. At least Robert (who is older than me!) is still young. He is willing to try new shiny social networks out.

    Will Plaxo over take Facebook? Doubtful, but I’m sure they will get millions of users that like them. There are plenty of social networks out there, and most will survive because the human is a social creature.

    Or again, you can be like Elton John (and I like Elton’s music!) – and just be cranky – shut down the internet – just shut it all down!

    Why? So we all can move back to the stone age of dial up and computers as big as a house?

    Rex

  35. I guess in history too, the most powerful networks have ended up being been closed ones, like the Masons… I think what you are hinting at here is that Plaxo is basically the kind of software an accountant would like, whereas Facebook is – even at its most innocent – essentially flirting by other means. That makes it a lot of sexy, by definition. That’s partly why it has the momentum it has right now. However, should Facebook have any more major outages, I think lots of people will start making sure they have some back-up plan for when it goes down/gets hacked etc etc

  36. Facebook, Plaxo – come on Linked In?!? I still use linked in for my business contacts (including those i met last night on Always On). However, why are they not going hell for leather to get social? Open up?! For me FB is a very cool tool, but quite fragmented if i just wanna keep my connections or contact details on there. I use Plaxo and like it – but i don’t want to know every connections phone number anyway – but for pure “connections” … whether weak or strong (e.g. just an email and a shared interest) i use linked in.

    If they don’t open up soon though, they may start to lose people. Hmmm, lockedout.com is taken…

  37. Facebook, Plaxo – come on Linked In?!? I still use linked in for my business contacts (including those i met last night on Always On). However, why are they not going hell for leather to get social? Open up?! For me FB is a very cool tool, but quite fragmented if i just wanna keep my connections or contact details on there. I use Plaxo and like it – but i don’t want to know every connections phone number anyway – but for pure “connections” … whether weak or strong (e.g. just an email and a shared interest) i use linked in.

    If they don’t open up soon though, they may start to lose people. Hmmm, lockedout.com is taken…

  38. Even though Facebook has “momentum,” somebody is probably going to figure out how to break the “walled garden” factor to share information. You can already get access to some of your “friends” info via RSS so I figure access to group info and app data cannot be far behind.

  39. Even though Facebook has “momentum,” somebody is probably going to figure out how to break the “walled garden” factor to share information. You can already get access to some of your “friends” info via RSS so I figure access to group info and app data cannot be far behind.

  40. people cant keep moving to the latest shiny new thing. As some point we need to stay put because of the network that has been created. the problem being that you cant transfer your info from one to the other. You cant contact someone on another social network site from a different one.

    Imagine if a Apple users couldn’t email a PC user. or a PC word file couldn’t be opened on a Apple. That is the current situation with social networking sites and is the major problem with them.

  41. people cant keep moving to the latest shiny new thing. As some point we need to stay put because of the network that has been created. the problem being that you cant transfer your info from one to the other. You cant contact someone on another social network site from a different one.

    Imagine if a Apple users couldn’t email a PC user. or a PC word file couldn’t be opened on a Apple. That is the current situation with social networking sites and is the major problem with them.

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