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jwz: Instagram Hates The Internet

Quite opinionated perspective on Instagram as an old fashioned bulletin board system and the deeply harmful lock-in practiced by most social media companies on the Internet today. Though the tone of the article is angry (and, strangely, doesn't focus on the fact that Facebook owns Instagram), it makes some important points that I rather like and that are worth repeating:

"The thing that makes the Internet useful is interoperability. These companies hate that. The thing that makes the Internet become more useful is the open source notion that there will always be more smart people who don't work for your company than that do, and some of those people will find ways to expand on your work in ways you never anticipated. These companies hate that, too. They'd rather you have nothing than that you have something they don't own."


  • Sandra Mulalic January 19, 2017 - 1:37pm

    The latest chat feature by YouTube does exactly that, it is trying to lock their users in the "walled gardens" of YouTube:

    "The idea is to keep the sharing experience within YouTube instead of switching between other applications, which the company hopes will create a less cumbersome experience."

    Not unlike the way FB Messenger and Viber keep offering to use their applications for actual phone calls, instant messaging and also to replace phone's native SMS application.

  • Jon Dron January 19, 2017 - 2:24pm

    Sigh - more fragmentation. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this. After dropping its extremely unpopular attempt to tie YouTube comments to Google+ accounts I am a little surprised that Google is attempting something that appears to be even worse, especially given the fact that the company was once admirably committed to supporting standards like OpenSocial that were designed to support such interoperability. As usual, Facebook is much to blame - it has deliberately sucked people from YouTube and hidden what they post, and is now a major video provider in its own right, so I guess Google felt it had to respond. This is not the way to do it, though.

    In fairness, realtime chat, video, audio, etc has historically always been prone to proprietary lock in, partly for technical reasons but, I suspect, mainly because ephemeral stuff like that can more easily be locked in: people seldom need to use it or share it beyond the immediate context, so they can (in theory) flit between systems as they please. It's annoying if you do wish to record and refer back to it, but it's not so disruptive if you lose access, on the whole. There's not the long-term investment, nor much need to reify such dialogues. After initially thinking things like Viber etc were a great idea, I am now very much less enamoured, especially since Apple and Google joined the party. Beware what happens should you ever switch from an iPhone to an Android phone or vice versa. As for WhatsApp, words fail me. It's easy to see the appeal, though, to the companies of fragmentation as a business model. I wonder whether there is a business model that makes defragmentation worthwhile? A good book that has much to say on such things is The Master Switch, by Tim Wu, which gives an historical (though very US-centric) account of things like the telephone system, radio regulation, cable TV, etc, and looks at the Internet in the light of that. Few answers, but a great analysis of how (in the US) such things evolved.


  • Jon Dron January 19, 2017 - 2:28pm

    ps - for a glimpse of one alternative approach, it might be worth checking out which is open, non-commercial, and free as in speech as well as in beer.