Haven’t we been through this before? Didn’t we all start out on AOL or Compuserve and then graduate to hang out with the cool kids (the early adopters) who out on wild, wild World Wide Web?
Facebook and a number of other social networks and social media tools remind me of that era, where worlds are walled off from one another. Granted, nothing’s completely walled off these days, thanks to Google and other search tools. But are we building up these proprietary systems only for them to be broken down in favor of a more open community again?
It’s easy to argue either side of the case. On the one hand, closed systems should make it easier to control and therefore monetize the value created by a network. A lot of VC money is banking on that being the case. A closed system also has some level of trust and security built in to it. The on-going privacy brouhaha at Facebook illustrates that, as does the very closed nature of LinkedIn. Without that level of control, LinkedIn would never have succeeded as it has.
But it’s also true that advertising isn’t going away. A whole universe of pundits swear that we’ve seen the end of “interruption marketing” and I hope they’re right. (I’m not sure they are. Their premise is right – engaging someone is much more effective than interrupting them. But not everything can be marketed that way.) And I’m still shocked that online advertising hasn’t matured to a point where it can support great content online. At some point advertisers realize that the same group of folks who watch TV also spend time on the Web. I realize the fragmentation of the market creates problems, but that’s creating problems for TV broadcasters, too.
I think the transition to advertising support happens before interruption marketing disappears completely. And I think the question of open vs. closed hinges in some part on that change.