I’ve just started using Facebook, and it’s pretty nice. A lot like LinkedIn, only focusing on leisure instead of work.
The problem is that Facebook is networking, blogging, online photo album and lots more, all rolled into one application. I’m already using WordPress for blogging and flickr for photos. Fortunately, Facebook can import my weblogs from WordPress automatically. The integration isn’t flawless, though – comments to the post on WordPress are separate from those made at Facebook.
Right now, a part of me feels that it would be great if Facebook was aquired by Yahoo – it would probably mean nice flickr integration with Facebook (since flickr is part of Yahoo). However, we don’t want the internet dominated by a small number of huge companies, do we? Nooooo.
What we need is standards and open APIs, so that it’s possible for Facebook developers and anyone else to access a user’s flickr photos provided they get the user’s login information. Fortunately, it seems we are moving in that direction – getting my posts from WordPress and displaying them in Facebook and being able to blog on WordPress from flickr are good examples.
Separating storage from presentation on the web
However, it strikes me as unlikely that these interoperability/integration issues will be fully resolved until we separate the basic work of just storing our stuff (photos, our social network, blog posts, music, videos or whatever) and presenting it in a frontend. Right now, the money is earned in the frontend, through advertising, and you are locked into one frontend since they have all your data and the associated metadata.
What we as consumers need is the opportunity to pick one company for storing all our stuff in one secure location and then let any other company present the data to us and let us modify and add to it through any standards-compliant interface.
I think Amazon is taking us in this direction with Amazon S3 – Amazon Simple Storage Services. They store 1 gig of your stuff for 0,2$ per month. If a company such as Amazon provides a standardized storage service, with suitable APIs for getting to the content, other companies, such as flickr and Facebook, could compete for our custom by providing the best interface to all that information.
In that world, I would pay Amazon a fee for storing all my stuff. Then I would use flickr to upload (into my storage at Amazon) and tag my photos, since they provide the best interface for doing that. Facebook would interface with the same storage repository, so all my photos would automatically be available there, if I wanted it to. If Facebook started providing a better interface for photo management, I’d start using their interface instead of flickr’s. When looking at my content on my phone, I would probably use a specialized Mobile Photo Album service, since mobiles are so different from desktops, and I would still have access to all my photos without any hassle.
If an unknown company appeared and created wonderful new web applications for combining videos, photos and social networking information in a seamless interface, everyone would be able to try it out using all their media without any fuss. Just type in the address of your Amazon repository, and off you go. Imagine what kind of innovation such a world could see.
Wouldn’t it be great?