When I wrote this back in 2011, I didn’t realize it would eventually become the same reasoning behind today’s movement pushing for web3 decentralization. David Carr wrote about my post in the New York Times soon after, on Feb 13, 2011.
Facebook isn’t going away, and neither is Twitter, nor Tumblr. No offense to Tumblr but in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have any of these platforms. In a perfect world, everyone would have their own piece of the web that they own entirely. The tech-savvy have this, so far as they don’t own the data center that their server physically resides in. That’s about the last mile of anyone owning their place on the web. Those tech-savvy enough to rent out rackspace, install their own web server and plop down their virtual piece of land on the web control and capitalize on all of the content that they deliver there.
However for most of the people on the web today, this isn’t the case. We live in a world of Digital Feudalism. The land many live on is owned by someone else, be it Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, or some other service that offers up free land, and the content provided by the renter of that land essentially becomes owned by the platform that owns the land.
In the case of Facebook, the content is your entire demographic profile, your likes, your dislikes, your friends, the products you buy, the videos you watch, and the articles you share, it’s the most extensive marketing profile known to man, and you’ve created it for absolutely no monetary gain.
In the case of Twitter or Tumblr, you’re helping build a fantastic repository of content that can be sold against ad inventory. Tumblr doesn’t yet have a monetization plan, beyond offering the ability to place ads in their directory, so we don’t yet know how they will leverage our content. We do have a right to wonder though. We’re not paying for the privilege of using their hosting for free so we have no right to complain if and when they do leverage the amazing content everyone here is helping create.
People want to be a part of these communities, so perhaps that is more valuable to them than owning their content completely. I wonder though if given the choice to have their own place on the web, owned entirely by them, interconnected by a way to “reblog” each other in the cloud, a cloud that nobody owns, if enough people would take it?
I doubt it though, I think the concept of communities built on platforms not owned by the people creating those communities is too established and the draw is too strong for most to resist.
I don’t think we will ever see the death of platforms and the rise of the networked individual.