Facebook: Welcome to the Machine

Watching all the fanfare around the Facebook IPO and listening to the talking heads on Bloomberg and CNBC, I see the notion of Facebook is being put forward as a future internet platform.  Being an IT guy for many years now and having gone through the client server, PCs and Internet fades, I don’t see Facebook as the new internet platform and here are three reasons why.

The broad definition of a platform is a technology base that enables other technologies for processing information.  This is fundamental for all the successful pervious platforms.  The mainframe, UNIX, windows and lately open source operating systems such as Linux, Ubuntu and others provide platforms for technology, enable processing and sharing of information.  Even though Facebook allows the sharing of information among friends, Facebook doesn’t really enable processing unless Facebook gets something from it.  Sure if I was a marketer and wanted to find out all the Facebook LIKEs or Friends of a particular product I could pay to harvest the Facebook data and understand the audience for my product.  To generally process information or get something computed or processed on Facebook is quite difficult and is costly.

Next, Facebook is not open nor are any of the other new “platforms” such as Google/Android or the Apple/iOS.  While all of these alternatives are interesting for their phone/PC/infrastructures, they are not truly “open.”  The open source community continues to expand with more open systems and software and they are becoming more popular than proprietary systems of the past. Will Facebook or other new Web 2.0 efforts need to become more open or will they suffer the graveyard fate of past proprietary platforms?  Google, Apple and Facebook are the holy grail of social data tracking everything about us and the details of our human condition.  All of this information is vital to anyone that wants to sell anything and that is the hype and promise that is being promoted and sold for billions of dollars.

Platforms provide true interaction and I cannot interact, extract or even get at my Facebook page interactive data.  If Facebook opens their architecture, platform and data so interaction information is available then Facebook might survive but not if it stays a one way proprietary system.  As Google rumors continue to link rankings with how much you pay Google, Apple locks its usage data and Facebook locks its LIKE and FRIEND information.  This reminds me of a book I read many years ago The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig. The book talked about how difficult it is to get out new ideas due to the stranglehold of these new technology robber barons.  It seems that the book’s ideas are coming true.  Is the stranglehold of these new robber barons going to lock us into a closed future like the oil, automotive robber barons of the past?

The end of privacy happened a while ago and now Facebook, Google and Apple are using everything they know about you to sell your information to the highest bidder.  As people learn more about these so called “platforms” it will be interesting to see their reaction and learn if these “platforms” are still around in five years or have become the latest proprietary platform graveyard victim.  Friend me on Facebook and if you LIKE this article.  😉


Dave Beulke is an internationally recognized DB2 consultant, DB2 trainer and education instructor.  Dave helps his clients improve their strategic direction, dramatically improve DB2 performance and reduce their CPU demand saving millions in their systems, databases and application areas within their mainframe, UNIX and Windows environments.

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