Garden gates can swing two ways

My latest Radar essay makes the modest proposal that Facebook might, in some cases, syndicate my data from elsewhere rather than requiring me to type it in. Most people think that’ll never happen. Paulo Eduardo Neves sums up why not:

I don’t think they have any intention to open gates in their walled garden.

Of course garden gates can work two ways. They can keep things in or out. We can all appreciate why Facebook wants to keep things in. But is it really in Facebook’s interest to keep things out? That would require Facebook to become the home for all of our photos, our calendars, and every other stream of data we create. What a burden! Why not let a decentralized internet carry some of that burden?

What’s matters most to Facebook, I should think, isn’t my photos and my calendars, but the surrounding interaction that it can uniquely enable, capture, and monetize. Couldn’t inbound syndication amplify that interaction? Dunno, just asking.

12 thoughts on “Garden gates can swing two ways

  1. Undoubtedly true and as technologists and digerati,we’d like it to be true. But there are solid competitive/business reasons for FB to behave in the way it does. Our feelings aren’t factors in the equation.

    1. The billion dollar question is whether Facebook wants to risk being a smaller piece of a larger pie or have its own pie. I think they’re going the Apple route WRT to philosophy of control for similar reasons. I cam expound on my (admittedly seat of the pants) opinion on whether this is the right approach for FB, but the takeaway is – to the casual observer at least -the risk outweighs the reward for the business case of being more open. Short answer, Jon, then, is no. Sadly.

      On a practical level, FB should be concerned about losing control of the conversation with open feed consumption. We’ve lived through how many internet modalities where the declining signal to noise ratio eventually drove users away? For a company that doesn’t fancy itself as something that it isn’t (i.e. a media company) what would posses them to sacrifice control of the crown jewel for some abstract and ethereal gain?

  2. It seems everyone wants to accept Facebook logins or allow logins from other services into Facebook. Validated RSS feeds could easily be allowed in or out I would think. I get the RSS feeds of activity from friends sent to Google Reader no problem. The inverse not only should be doable but acceptable too, with a full API and security mechanism to prevent any camouflaged malware payloads from traversing the walled garden.

  3. I would add there’s business cases for it from the perspective of collecting ‘affinity’ data of people who want to pull feeds into their FB accounts. It’s just more info that FB can sell to advertisers. It’s hard to make a case against it really.

  4. It is not common on the internet to promote two way cooperation. The problem, I believe, goes to the competitor cooperation issue. That is, it is hard for two competitors to cooperate. This is common in the financial securities industry where competitors cooperate in organizing and using an Exchange but compete within the Exchange. The social media do not have such an exchange concept. Observe that it is tenuous the cooperation between Google, Apple and Microsoft (yes, I know you work for Microsoft) on the simplest of levels although there is some small examples.
    Perhaps the route of a plug in, extension or application that facilitates your specific type of desired cooperation is in order?

  5. I logged in to leave the comment using my Facebook account as an example of the opt-in cooperation. I notice that in that mode I am unable to edit my previous post however.

  6. FB is willing already to pass Twitter, FourSquare, Tumbr, Flickr streams through apps into an individuals Wall. It would be nice if FB would accept non-Application feeds that follow an open format like Atom/RSS. I guess maybe that’s the real argument. There needs to be a lower threshold to mixing/matching/mashing up what is accepted as a legitimate input into the FB Activity Stream.

  7. I used to pipe all my external RSS activity feeds into Facebook via FriendFeed. This functionality worked for over a year (after Facebook bought FriendFeed) then suddenly stopped without warning or explanation about two months ago.

    The feeds are still aggregated on FriendFeed so I conclude that Facebook DON’T want me to populate my wall with posts from my three blogs, my LastFM account, my Quora account, my Twitter account etc.

  8. The business model is as follows. By refusing to support external feeds, users have to make a hard choice, and a good many of them will switch to using FB software as the source of their feeds. Those users are then at the mercy of the FB software, which can tax them in whatever way FB feels like.

    This isn’t the only plausible business model, but it seems to be the way FB is thinking. Attract a customer base, hold them close, and extract revenues from them.

    I don’t know that it will work out for blogs and photo streams, however. Most people I know would only post pictures on FB if they are intentionally narrowing their audience to other FB people. If they are posting something for the general public, or for their family, they’d use another service. Any time that happens, FB ends up having their ultimatum backfire.

    More broadly, walled gardens have historically done poorly on the Internet. Remember AOL, MSNetwork, Prodigy, and Compuserve? They all tried to limit the exchange of email between customers and outsiders, and they all four saw their user bases dwindle.

  9. Officially, Facebook announces that their Notes application can import feeds:
    The problem is that it is broken and never update the feed. It is a two years old bug.

    It is possible to import using third party applications, but it they are more limited in what they can display. I’m using one of them and it basically displays the initial lines and link back to my site.

    Maybe we should cite that old quotation: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by plain stupidity. “

  10. The answer arrive: they are evil. Here is the message in my fan page in Facebook:

    “We’re Making Pages Better
    We want to make sure the tools you use to manage your page are as effective as possible. Here’s an update about how you connect with your audience:

    RSS Importer for Notes: People are more likely to interact with your content if you add personal comments and respond to feedback left on your Wall. While you can still write individual notes, you’ll no longer be able to automatically import content from your website to your page. This feature will no longer be available as of October 31st.

    Visit Facebook Pages and click Like to get updates on new features as they’re released.”

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