A friend: “so basically the move (which twitter initiated) is to desktop clients where you have your twitter (or now facebook) feed that is customized for you.”
My reply, which I was too lazy to turn into a post but I thought would be an interesting conversation starter:
Twitter didn’t exactly initiate it, the internet did. It’s about giving access to data in a bet that the value created through the network effect from third party products/services built on top of that data is greater than the value you capture by keeping that data to yourself and trying to stay ahead of innovation – and it’s usually the right bet. Of course it’s never so black and white (see iphone app store, where third party apps are allowed but controlled tightly).
With the new activity streams API, someone could theoretically build a replica of Facebook with a better user interface, while pulling in all of the user’s historical and current network data. There are twitters apps all over the web that do this; they look very similar to twitter with some additional functionality. Twirhl, destroytwitter, seesmic, and tweetdeck all do essentially the same thing just in a desktop client – think value-added reseller. People generally attribute Twitter’s success to the fact that it’s been open from day 1 – the proliferation of third party apps has been massive.
I dont know the details well enough to get too granular, but there are some complaining that the activity streams API is not as robust as it could be, a sign that Facebook isn’t willing to give it all up just yet. For instance, it is still difficult to aggregate and analyze FB data outside of a given user’s activity stream call. See this article for more: http://bit.ly/4iaTW
Obviously what allows twitter and fb to make such a move is that they are still at the helm of massive amounts of data, and have the greatest opportunity to monetize that data through ads, statistical analysis, enterprise, add-on features, etc. The lock in play is that the users of facebook are in the end still facebook users, i.e. logging in with a fb username and password, and sending every iota of data back to facebook.
What interests me is the scenario in which identity shifts to user-centric from platform-centric. Put another way, where the user owns their data and “rewards” platforms with control of that data relative to the contribution that platform makes to their user experience. I think we’re beginning to see this now – with concentric circles of social experience (twitter/facebook/plaxo/ning/etcetcetc) online, a social network can only make lock-in plays to the extent that the value they offer the user surpasses the value consumed in that lock-in. Where functionality is desired and not delivered, users, with increasing ease as open standards take hold, are able to move efficiently from one network to another, and punish those networks that take their precious data for granted.