Google’s Ultimate Mashup, The End of Web 2.0, and More Metaverse Wannabees

Congratulations to Google — after the announcement of Google Wave, we can finally close the chapter on Web 2.0, or, rather, Web 2.0 Release Candidate. We’ve finally left 2.0 behind to enter the dramatic new age of Web 2.1.

Image of Google Wave in action, courtesy of Google

You might say to yourself, “oh no, this is just another Facebook clone, why should we share Gwyn’s enthusiasm this time?”

Appearances are delusive 🙂 Read on to understand why this announcement is so important — and, ultimately, what lessons should we, eager Web 3.0 enthusiasts, take from it.

Innovation leads to fragmentation

Consider all cool ideas that have popped up on the Web in the past decade. They all sport an uniform interface — they run on top of the Web’s HTTP protocol (except, well, for virtual worlds, VoIP, and the oldest instant messaging mechanisms). So while the 1990s were about consolidation — the world’s unification behind a single email protocol (SMTP with POP3/IMAP4 mailboxes); a single content-retrieval mechanism (HTTP with HTML); and even a pretty much standard network file sharing mechanism (most of the world uses Samba/SMB, a.k.a. Windows file sharing, although Apple hasn’t given up the fight yet), just take a look at what happened this past decade with the Web 2.0: total and utter fragmentation.

You might think this is inevitable, and actually even good, as talented, innovative people start creating new ideas from scratch and need to tackle new ways of doing things. On the other hand, we all know what happened to things like the (proprietary) Microsoft Mail protocol (oh, not to bash only Microsoft on this; several other corporations did the same): they simple got integrated into the universal mail protocol for the Internet (e.g. SMTP) or died.

Right now, a 25,000-word-article would not be enough to list all social networking sites in existence. And, guess what: except for some very few that use OpenSocial, developing something for one social networking tool does not work on any other. Sure, not many Web 2.0 services allow any kind of development. Besides the few that use OpenSocial (hi5, LinkedIn, MySpace, Netlog, Ning, orkut, Yahoo, and others), you have the Mighty Facebook as uncontested leader, but others also allow further development with proprietary tools.

What’s in for the rest? RSS feeds mostly; many are starting to accept OpenID as a way to get common authentication. Almost all of them provide APIs that can be used to retrieve content from each other (even though microblogging or “status changing” is the most used cross-platform functionality). That allows, for instance, things like importing movies from, say, YouTube into orkut.

But what is totally lacking is integration. Let’s suppose I’m on Facebook and have a picture on Flickr that I wish to send on a message to a friend who hates Facebook and only uses orkut. Or I’ve just commented on someone’s video embedded in Netlog, but although that video was originally embedded from YouTube, my comment will never show up on YouTube, but only on Netlog. Or I’ve posted the same status update on Twitter and Facebook, and someone re-tweeted it — but only my Twitter followers will see that. My Facebook friends will never know about the re-tweeting.

“Of course”, I hear you say, “but that’s how it works! They’re different systems, you ought to complain less and use [insert favourite social networking application here] exclusively, like all your friends do”.

Well, that’s the problem. Social networking tools, in spite of promoting interconnection among millions of users, do not interconnect among themselves.

I always found that ironic, of course, although I know perfectly well that this is the case of a lot of software 🙂

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About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I’m just a virtual girl in a virtual world…

  • I’ve already explained how it is evil:

    Your enthusiasm marks you as part of the problem, not part of the solution for the next iterations of the Web, Gwyn.

  • What’s appalling about your fan-post here is that you can rag on and on about portals (portals are still a good thing, and still in fact exist in the form of popular news sites, aggregators, various communities that help people know *what to search for* as search by itself isn’t enough”.

    You write something knowier-than-thou like this:

    “Yahoo, Microsoft, and others tried to become “the portal that connects to everywhere”, and — according to their reasoning — once everybody in the world was registered to your portal, you could easily get a list of all sites to visit from one single place. It was exactly the same reasoning: compete to be the market leader, eliminate the competition, and you’ll find everything you need on a single source.”

    making it seem like companies that try to be monopolies are evil and will fail, but then skip incredibly lightly over the fact that Google monopolized search, and research (by putting Wikipedia first), and monetarized it, and is now set to scrape all your personal communications, too (no robot.txt inside the wave, hmm?) Why are you not more concerned about that?

    Common-sense boosters of tekkie stuff, like Fred Wilson, even if he has the overenthusiasm about Web 2.0 and its works that you do, still is able to say that Google getting too big will automatically fail, just like Microsoft or anything getting too big always fails because markets demand it.

    Oh, unless you impose communism, then there’s no market.

  • Prokofy, for you, the whole of the Internet is evil! Look at it this way: *all viewable content is downloadable for free!* Yuck! Let’s bring the Web down, quickly!

    Seriously, I read your article to the end and couldn’t find a single argument there. Just… a mashup of your oldest anti-collectivism nightmares, all jumbled up in the same post, with cross-references to whatever crossed your mind in the past month. In fact, if someone edited out all references to Google and Wave, your article would actually “make sense”, since it pretty much summarises all your fears and nightmares in a single place.

    How does it relate to Google Wave?… Well, you got scared about people spell-checking your emails. Ok, that’s a point. I’m sure there will be an option to turn that off 🙂

    But Google Wave is definitely way more than spell-checking emails.

  • This, I believe, is social networking done right. Instead of “forcing” people to jump to the latest and greatest social networking site and go “aaah” and “oooh” (while losing all their contacts on the previously greatest social networking site, as well as all content), you just give people freedom of choice on where they register (depending, of course, on the level of “coolness” and “features” and already existing friends on that particular service), but they will all be in touch — without needing to sign up on your service

    I marvel at your lack of contextual conceptualization here, Gwyn. You keep talking about people making FB or Twitter “clones”, having whatever they do on those services show on up the Wave. But…you’re failing to grapple with the obvious fact that when you can clone those services, you don’t need them anymore. Who needs Twitter when you’re now all on g-talk/g/mail wave in real time? Only if it turns out the Wave has some kind of concurrency or “avatars on a sim limit” problem could this NOT be an issue. But of course, most people, like the Plurkers, don’t need 70,000 friends or the firehose of Twitter, they just need their 50 best friends that will fit on something like this.

    You fail to see that Wave simply obliterates every other social service, and scoops up all that data into itself, for its own exploitation. Why you, who are Ms. Openness and Ms. Anti-Closed and Ms. Anti-Monopolist (seemingly) could not care about this massive global collectivization of everybody’s comms is breath-taking.

    So it must be due to the fact that, true to the spirit of Neualtenberg (*waves to Kendra in socialist heaven!*), you LOVE collectivism.

    Nobody but a minority of tekkies with opensource religious beliefs, and widgeteers hoping to capitalize on the holes punctured through platforms, “needs” to be able to send an IM from Facebook to Myspace, or to import all their friends from FB to Plurk. This is a fiction — a geek fiction.

  • Hah! I’m not an absolute fan of Google; in fact, it took me years to understand that Google’s only reason for launching Gmail (which was once just an “internal” project done on the developer’s free time, e.g. one day per week) was to get more profiling data — same as with Gtalk, of course, as well as most, if not all, their products. I wonder if they also index and profile data stored on Google Docs, too.

    So, “the company that does no evil” is actually more dangerous than Microsoft ever tried to be (since poor Microsoft, at best, can send information about your computer, but not about your self). And yes, I’m sure that in a few years we’ll all be scared of Google as we were scared of Microsoft, and of IBM, and of whatever came before IBM. It’s only natural.

    Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that Google sometimes has a revolutionary idea, now and then. They are also able to make huge mistakes (Lively is not even the largest mistake they made). Google’s not perfect. For instance, the world would have been completely different if they hadn’t bought Blogger, but a different company (Automattic or TypePad for instance) or had managed to get their design-your-own-webpage tool working (which they never did).

    Ironically, it’s only in the past few months that Google has been beating Yahoo as the website driving more traffic. The difference is small, but Google is steadily rising; 9 months ago, MSN, Yahoo, and Google were constantly trading places as the “largest” (ie. more visitors and traffic) site in the world. MSN has been dropping steadily (far faster than Yahoo) but will certainly catch up once Microsoft launches their new search engine. Still, it’s interesting to see that Facebook (Microsoft) and YouTube (Google) are catching up, while Flickr (Yahoo) is now out of the league. Wikipedia (Wikia) is not doing so bad as Flickr, but it’s far worse than YouTube or Facebook. Soooo… there are a lot of companies out there to try to steal Google’s “monopoly on the Web”.

  • Um, the evil isn’t that it is viewable or downloadable. The evil is that Wave removes the desk top, removes me as a judging individual with integrity, removes the walls I establish — rightfully — in my communications and just scrapes them all relentless, and nudges me relentlessly into a collective where everybody edits my stuff, endlessly. No thanks. I don’t want to live inside a wiki, Gwyn. I’ll leave it to you and your socialist pals.

    Collaboration, networking, etc. — these are all good things. Forced collectivization, which happens even in a “voluntary” service that inevitably pushes you to a certain worldview and to certain collectivizing behaviour, is not.

    Um, it’s not about spell-checking my emails, which they won’t be doing, as I’m a good speller. It’s about them EDITING all emails and constantly creating collectized mash-ups that Playback cannot really cope with. In any collectivizing situation, the few collectivize the many, it’s never equal.

  • AND the reason you can think my carefully-argued arguments against Wave are just a jumble of my existing prejudices and “FUD” is merely because you just don’t see collectivization as the problem I do. You think it’s “fun” because you assume you will code it and control it. That’s all, Gwyn. That’s all it is EVER about with you.

  • Amazing link and post Gwyn.. Great news coming from Google this time, Google again proves to be one of the most innovative companies out there!

  • Oh come on, Prok. I wish you’d had been around when we had this discussion about email in 1992-4.

    Your arguments for an “isolated Internet” are simply preposterous. The reach of the Internet has always increased with common protocols, while isolated islands, unconnected to anywhere else, tend to be submerged in the vast ocean of interconnectivity after enough time passes.

    Don’t confuse universal standards with collectivisation. Think about what the world looked like before we had a single standard for car fuel, or even more trivial things like paper sizes, nuts and bolts. Not to mention world-wide telephone and TV systems. Industry standards don’t exist because of “collectivisation”, but because they further the reach of a specific technology, allowing consumers to buy or focus on the brand they prefer, knowing that any product will work with any other.

    Or are you seriously promoting that TV stations ought to go back to their own protocols and force you to use special TVs just to watch their shows? You know, it used to work like that. Even on the dawn of electricity distribution consumers suffered because when they switched power suppliers they had to get rid of all their electrical appliances and buy new ones!

    I’m pretty sure you know that all very well — even better than I do — and will be the first to defend standardisation to allow a larger consumer choice, and vendor-independence, which leaves consumers to pick the product that offers best service or best price, and forcing suppliers to compete in both, thus making the market more dynamic, and consumer’s choice more democratic — they can vote with the wallet.

    Instead, you’re refusing to admit that the Internet won’t benefit from the same thing. So why should everything else in the world benefit from industry standards but NOT the Internet? 😛

    That argument would make sense in a state economy (preventing consumers to have choices, but force them to buy only the products that work with state-approved standards), but really… you aren’t promoting that, are you?

    Google Wave Federation Protocol is just a proposal for an industry standard that will possibly stop social networking consumers to throw away all their data and continue to register for the “next best thing” over and over again, as the “next best thing” suddenly pops into existence. Sure, Google will profit from more indexing. Guess what: they already do that, in spite of isolated social networking sites! I’m sure they will have a benefit with the sites federated with them — or else, they wouldn’t be doing an effort — but can’t you understand what “customer choice” in this context means? Right now, it means that you have to pull all your friends out of a social networking site into a new one, each time someone comes up with a clever idea. Google Wave will allow you to pick the one you like most — be it because of price, functionality, good technical support, or because it uses prettier colours — and continue to keep in touch with all your friends and business acquaintances.

    Same as email. Or do you still have a Compuserve address? 🙂

  • Standardisation is not collectivism. See my answer below. Standardisation is about consumer’s choice, and companies aggressively competing for making better products, for a better price, and with better customer support. Lack of standardisation means that consumers are stuck with a supplier, and if they are unhappy with it, they cannot replace it — they have to move elsewhere.

    It’s only collectivism that disregards consumers in the process. It’s lack of standardisation that enables control. Replaceable products keep the power in the consumers’ hands — they vote with their wallet, picking up the best products that way, instead of being stuck to a single supplier.

    You actually have your arguments upside down!

  • … even though sometimes they don’t get it right 🙂 But this time it *looks* like they actually have hit gold. And have the leverage to pull it off.

    It’ll be interesting how Microsoft replies to this. They might launch the “Facebook Interconnection Protocol” as an alternative protocol. And they might beat Google to it: after all, Google’s effort to enter the mobile phone market with Android didn’t work out that well — Microsoft continues to have a growing market share even in spite of the iPhone.

    But… we’ll see what happens 🙂 I’m sure a lot of people at Facebook are now thinking what to do to reply to Google. Twitter, however, is probably regretting not having accepted the offers to get bought… 😉

  • Very likely, the ability to edit emails will be opt-in, or Google would be in serious trouble when providing services on countries that consider viewing or tampering with other people’s emails without their explicit permission or a court order as a criminal offense… I was a bit baffled at how this will actually work in practice. To the best of my knowledge, not even Google is above the law…

    And for the sake of argument, Wikipedia is evil, as the power of deciding “truth” for the whole world is in the hands of 150,000 Wiktators — who, more often than not, all agree on their version of truth…

  • Oops. Actually, Microsoft has replied: they already had announced their new search engine, Bing. I’ve missed that!

  • You don’t understand universality, Gwyn, and never have. Universality trumps “universal standards”. Universality, as I tried to explain in a post that got cut in your rants about MMOX and my critique of MMOX, is the rule of law with universal *principles*. Universal standards are just what gets to trump everyone else by force, market decisions (not always so markety), groups of tekkies humming — literally — at Internet decision meetings without any Congressional oversight, democratic voting — anything.

    You treat your “universal standards” as if they are something sacred. They aren’t. They are often trumped the next day after they are made. Who gets to decide what a universal standard is, Gwyn, by which process?

    Nobody got to decide if all email should now be editable because some “federation” called “Google” “needs” to scrape your data. It just “happens”. And scrape it they will.

    There is no robot.txt inside the wave, and yes, emails are editable, and no, there isn’t some opt-out of this, they made it clear that the Playback is the only accountability mechanism, like a wiki history — snort!

    Honestly, I hope this gets savagely killed — but it will likely survive in some form precisely because Google cleverly incited all you tekkies out there who just LOVE stuff like this — you completely roll over for it. So they create an enforcers’ New Class to evangelize — aggressively — a platform that nobody knew they “needed” before a million widgeteers descended on them.

    When there are a variety of widgets on a variety of standards in fact we have more choice. Standardization that supposedly eases things for the consumer often ends up merely obliterating competitors. We all have Microsoft Word, not Google Docs, for now anyway.

    Your arguments are simply blind to the problem of the principles of real rule of law, and choice that comes from having a democratic system, by bleating about universal standards like they are wonderful even if only one company gets to impose them. That’s not universality, it’s monarchy — or communist autocracy.

  • Nice post. I think we’re on the same wavelength – see – and having only just got used to calling SL an application platform not a destination I’ll have to learn to start talking about it as a protocol.

  • Anonymous

    Google _is_ getting there, isn’t it? Maybe Ian Jukes’ marvelous and maybe scary vision of Google world domination isn’t too far off the mark, assuming they continue this kind of creative and visionary innovation. I watched the whole video, just about the length of a full-length feature film, and was mesmerized. Makes me wish I had some programming talent so I could contribute!

  • Yes, the fragmentation in the social networking space is especially frustrating. There will be a Darwinian reduction, like there was in the search engine area.

  • Jared Spurbeck

    Being autistic, I’d just like to point out that we aren’t “isolationist” so much as that certain forms of socialization tax our resources a great deal. ^.^; There are a lot of autistic bloggers online, even “low-functioning” ones, and we make friends just like anyone else! Often we’re more at home in places like Second Life than IRL … you’ve probably run into a few of us already!

    Er, this was with regards to the remark you made on page 10 in which you used the word “autistic” as a derogatory term and conflated it with being “isolationist” …

  • I apologise for that, Jared! The English language, with its myriad re-appropriation of meanings, fashionably using some terms one decade and neglecting others, makes it so much harder for non-native speakers to keep track of what currently is or isn’t a derogatory term. I just employed an old, outdated definition of autism that meant basically ” withdrawal to its fantasies, against which any influence from outside becomes an intolerable disturbance”. This certainly applies to companies creating social networking tools that do not communicate among each other, and, worse, see each other as “intolerable disturbances” (in the sense that for each social networking tool designer, all others are “nuisances” that ought to be removed for them to become the ultimate monopoly).

    I fully understand that not only this definition is hopelessly outdated, is not a scientifically correct description of the condition that humans suffer from, and the confusion from employing it in that context might be seen as derogatory or even insulting. My apologies, I did not intend to mean it that way!

    And yes, of course I have run into many “autists” (of all forms) in SL 🙂 Not only I’m good friends with several (and have been so for a long time!), but I actually have employed them in the past to work for my company — they’re excellent workers, unusually bright and intelligent, and quite hard-working and keen on delivering high quality work in time. As a matter of fact, I should add that I have absolutely no clue when I’m talking to someone in SL that later claims to have been diagnosed with Asperger’s or any other similar disease. Unless I’m told, I hardly notice a difference. Your comment of “being more at home in places like Second Life” makes a lot of sense of me: it is also the experience I have with many friends and colleagues who are diagnosed with Asperger’s. In SL, there is no way to notice their condition. Even some extreme cases are often hard to tell. At least, that’s my personal experience!

  • A quick scan turned up “…given that her lefty views aline…” in “The Fog of Blogs”.