Today marks an important day in the short history of social networks or – as you might prefer to call it – the real-time web: Facebook announced the definitive agreement to acquire FriendFeed. As the FriendFeed founders have put it, they’ve accepted Facebook’s friend request.
While the internet is a buzz about these breaking news, it’s sad news for me.
A quick glimpse at FriendFeed right after the announcement it appears to me, that the majority of FriendFeeders seem to dislike the idea of being forced to become Facebook users for what FriendFeed delivered to them, as well; some have even started to cancel their accounts.
It’s very likely only a matter of time until Facebook kills FriendFeed as a product, slightly “adjusts” content ownership policies and starts using the FriendFeed history for behavioral analysis and “targeted” ads. We’ve all seen this before.
To me it reemphasizes the need for a community owned, community driven, non-commercial platform. This might sound stupid, but it has worked before with programming and scripting languages, version control solutions and even entire operating systems. There’s no obvious reason why it shouldn’t work for stuff that forms the real-time web.
Having sold my own company, which did enterprise communication solutions, to Alcatel in 2008, I can very much understand the founders motivation to agree to the deal. But this only strengthens my point: At a certain time any founder will be offered enough money, to agree to the deal of his lifetime. And even if they claim not to, we might see Twitter being acquired in the near future, too.
Ultimately the only solution might be, to ask Linus Torvalds to do us one more favor and kick off a real-time web platform, that let’s us build a social network that can stand commercial interests and ask the Gates Foundation to fund it. If Linda and Bill don’t come to our rescue, we might ask users to voluntarily donate in favor of guaranteed privacy.
I’d love to see how that “business model” would work out.