The Segregated Internet: The Walled Garden that lives among an Open Source Internet Society

A few weeks ago, a few friends of mine, Steven Taylor @stevenltaylor and Martin Byrne @mbyrne2323 had a philosophical and yet cynical discussion about this growing notion of the “Splinternet” which was initally coined by Doc Searles and Rich Tehrani. Thanks to Josh Bernoff of Forrester for bringing this back to light. He referred to a “Web in which content on devices other than PCs, or hidden behind passwords, makes it harder for site developers and marketers to create a unified experience.” Steve was the one who first brought up this notion of the Walled Garden. While it seems we’re playing nice in the sandbox, there are big players who are slowly creating a greater separation for the purposes of wielding greater control in a largely uncontrollable market.

Social, while around for awhile, has been questioned by traditional marketers who need validation of its performance. What has helped unify social sites has been open source that allows the connectedness of platforms that have hoped would also provide more insight into consumer behaviour and navigation cross-platforms and channels. The notion of open source was sharing and allowing individuals to access multiple networks without relying on the management of multiple accounts. I have often parallelled this to the idea turning spaghetti into soup, where users go from site to site seemlessly, sharing same and new connections as they go and creating more bonded relationships.

At least this is how I envisioned the insertion of open source…

But Apple and Facebook, two extremely strong players are making it increasingly difficult to play nice. I’ve developed on Facebook pages and have experienced migraines at their ever-changing policies. Not to mention, Facebook code changes, implemented at the expense of the developer efforts and marketers’ investment dollars, are indicative of a communist regime that has no problems dictating policies, because they claim the population equivalent to the third largest country behind China and India.

Things that tick me off:

  • Facebook,’s policies on doing Facebook Page promotions need the written consent of Facebook.
  • Facebook bends the rules for current advertisers.
  • Marketers are unable to run contest and promotions utilizing Facebook’s native tools — their wall, photo tags, video etc for fear or liability in the event of a malfunction on these tools. This is what really P’s me off. I have been told to build my own “wall”. Well Facebook, that defeats the purpose of amplification if my wall posts won’t be fed into the newsfeed.
  • Facebook Community Pages, which totally confuse the user, and draws attention away from the official page.
  • Google no longer has access to index all web content. Newscorp and Facebook do not disclose all their content to Google.
  • Newspaper sites that closed down their offline are moving to online paid subscription, therefore perpetuating this separation.
  • I know Apple’s been pretty much doing the same thing with HTML5 as the rest of us have gotten used to Adobe Flash.

I actually love the idea of Open Graph that creates a social footprint for all web assets outside of Facebook or other social platforms. But that infers Facebook domination. Google watch out!  (another blog post methinks!)

All this is happening while people like me are still trying to validate the channel. Standardization has still not happened. The IAB doesn’t know how to treat metrics, best practices, etc. The closer we get to creating a stronger community, the harder these companies are working to remove themselves from the mix.

I guess in some ways, if truth be told, there needs to be a few that dominate. Does Apple and Facebook want to be the MSN and Yahoo! during their heyday? And what will happen to the true value of open source? I’m compelled to believe that the masses may demand some sort of conformity but I doubt that will wield any long term effects.

So, I guess we’re witnessing the end of an era….however short-lived!

Here is a recent video that explains this.

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