On trees that don’t grow to the sky

You could build a shallow history of computing by looking only at which company looked like it was taking over the world at any given moment. First there was IBM, then Microsoft, then Google, and now there’s Facebook. None of them ever did take over the world, and no one company ever will.

It was with that perspective in mind that I wrote Waving Goodbye to Facebook in the August issue of Linux Journal, which is now on the Web. The pull-grafs:

Responding in his own Newsweek blog, Barrett Sheridan called Zuckerberg’s plans a “Play to Take Over the Entire Internet“. In TechCrunch, MG Siegler’s headline read, “I Think Facebook Just Seized Control Of The Internet“. Whether or not Facebook is that ambitious, it won’t succeed at anything other than enlarging itself. The limits to that are those of any private architecture. It can get big, but not bigger than the planet. What Facebook has built is The Great Indoors. A lot of people like going there, just like a lot of people like going to shopping malls. But Facebook is a building, not geology.

The Web is geology. It is a wide open public space on which private and public structures can be built in boundless variety. Linux is probably the most widely used building material below and within those structures. Calculating its value is pointless, because — as Eric S. Raymond made clear long ago — Linux has use value more than sale value. As useful stuff, its leverage is boundless and therefore incalculable. It will also last as long as it remains useful.

The same cannot be said of Facebook, whose value is quite calculable, and which will thrive only as long as its revenue model and its investors’ patience holds out. Both of those will be shortened by the dissatisfaction of users, which Facebook has been risking increasingly over the years.

Of course, Facebook has little choice in that matter. To rephrase The Social Network‘s poster copy, you can’t make a billion friends without making a few million enemies. And, of course, following Facebook right now is kinda necessary. A few links I just moved here from tabs on my browser:

But then there is this, by Paul Boutin in the New York Times‘ Gadgetwise blog: Facebook Now Lets You Take Your Data With You. Thanks, Mark.


  1. paul mooney’s avatar

    I first went to Facebook when asked before a MIX conference as a way to organize meetups. At the end of the sign-up processes I was told they would scrape my address book and let all my friends know I was on Facebook, so I didn’t opt-in.

    6 months later I got an email from another Paul Mooney iin the UK asking me to be his Friend on Facebook, I clicked on the link to find I did indeed have a Facebook page.

    I met Mark Zuckerberg at a Web 2.0 Summit and asked him about this and he laughed like a little boy and said it was a glitch.

  2. bruce wayne’s avatar

    ……So far Facebook has had a free pass….They have not encountered anyone willing to throw rocks at their large house of glass….This will only go on for so long….As it is becomes very clear that Facebook is a relic of the past dominate business frame work that is; mono directional in terms of communication signals with its member community (Facebook tell members what they need) , and Extracts large amounts of monetary while returning zero to the members community that has contributed to their bottom line…..For me we have reached a point were the greatest new leaps will be in innovating business models and processess that return value to a community that is a co owner….I think its time to end this and to turn the pyramid upside down,,,

  3. Don Marti’s avatar

    Bruce, try looking up some of the anti-“everybody draw Mohammed day” groups. There are niches of anger all over FB, and eventually a large fraction of users are going to fall into one or the other.

    The big problem for FB long-term is the same as Rush Limbaugh’s problem — huge audience, but advertisers aren’t willing to pay top dollar to have their ads on controversial subjects. The Mainstream Media isn’t “neutral” because they want to be, but because that makes them a safe place for major brand logos.

  4. recyclage meubles’s avatar

    No site can take over the internet, as big as it can be. The internet is a platform with an architecture combining various systems. Taking over the internet would mean to modify that platform.

    Having built a large website, even when its name is Google or Facebook does not “take over”, it just large enough so people notice. I a big mall opens in a small city by a highway, it never takes over the highway or the city, it becomes part of it. Same goes with the internet. Those headlines are just made by newspaper to incite the gullible to buy their paper.

  5. 2011 Challenger’s avatar

    I have to disagree recyclage, 90% of search engine traffic comes from Google. More often than not all of a site’s traffic is from search engines. Sites like Google & Facebook are the highways of the internet, they funnel traffic to the highest bidder in most cases.

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