Eran's blog

Walled Garden Gone? Not Quite Yet

Robert Young writes (and Jeremy Zawodny and Mark Pincus seems to agree) :

It won’t be the corporation that locks its customers into a walled garden any more; instead, it will be the people themselves who create their own high switching costs. For instance, if you are an eBay seller, your switching cost is not so much the relationship you’ve created with eBay itself and the store you set up, it’s the reputation and trust you spent years building with fellow members of the community. Similarly, if you are a member of MySpace, it’s not the web-page and blog you spent time constructing, it’s your social network of cyber-friends you’ve cultivated and accumulated over time.

At the end, the lesson is one of a paradox. As the power shifts increasingly towards community, the corporation loses its grip on the traditional means of control. Yet, by letting go of control, the corporation creates an environment where the community willingly creates its own switching costs.

To some degree I agree with Mr. Young, it is hard to leave behind the reputation you created in a community and move some other, maybe better, community. However, in the second paragraph, he claims that those limits are now self imposed by users as corporations are letting go of control. Is that completely true? If corporations really let go, I would own my own data, I would be able to “takeâ€? my social network and my reputation with me wherever I go or share it with other services. If it were true the limits to moving to a new community would be much lower or disappear altogether. The Ebay merchant would be able to import his reputation and reviews to (say) Amazon’s zShops, with references to Ebay users linking directly to Ebay; any MySpace user would be able to start using tribe with her entire list of contacts still in place, her friends who are already on tribe would appear as tribe friends, those who aren’t would appear as contacts on other networks.

A truly open social network would cooperate with other such social networks or at least offer an API to programmatically access information like contacts, reputation and other user-created content. As far as I know, none of the major players currently offer that (Tribe allows you publish contacts and listings but in a very limited way). When open identity services, social networks and networks of trust are widely available and used by sites like Yahoo or MySpace I’ll agree that corporations are letting go of control. For now, the walls are still there, they just look a little different.

via: Mark Pincus


Filed under: The Net

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