The casualties of (Google and Facebook’s) War

Posted Musings

Having done a bit of traveling lately and made a conscious decision to disconnect, I’m only just now climbing out from that landslide of information that hits when you plug back in. The exponential nature of it is also apparent. It’s not just the time you’re gone, but the time it takes you to sort the wheat from the chaff, prioritize everything on your plate and generally just get back up to running speed. By the time you do that and turn your attention to your e-Newsletters and RSS feeds, the molehill has become a mountain.

Which I have just now waded through, and aside from the ridiculous amount of hyper around Path, the thing that stuck out the most to me was a dis-ordinate amount of copy about the battle between Facebook and Google. There seems to be a lot of discussion about the stickiness of revenue models, the impact of email and how much we’re all going to suffer in the fallout of the war. Sure, now that Facebook has launched a messaging platform (Check out Jordan’s post. Zuckerberg insists it’s not email) that’s a supposed Gmail Killer, the pundits have offered their 2c (check out some pros and cons on Lifehacker), laid their bets and are screaming for blood, while the Talking Heads of the digerrazzi solemnly intone worst case scenarios.

Well it’s not quite as bad as all that, but the sense of hyperbole is contagious. The bottom line, I think, is that people can really get behind Rivalries. No-one likes a monopoly and the free market system is too broad; the masses need a clear indication of who to cheer for. Google had their trial by fire with Microsoft and Facebook had to go through Myspace to get where they’re at.

Despite their radically different business models and core functions, their forays into each others’ territory can only lead to confrontation. But is it really necessary this time? Facebook’s, semi-enclosed garden increasingly seeks to encompass as many streams of communication as possible while Google’s attempts to index the web try to include all of our social connections too in attempts to perfect the delivery of search results (and, of course, delivering adverts: text, online display or otherwise).

But is it really necessary for us to suffer in all this? Surely the greater online population benefits when these two behemoths go ahead and do their own thing in a way that allows for integration? If data portability were taken off the table as an issue, surely everyone wins. There will always be punters who choose a side and shout down the other guys, but for the rest of us, we really just want everything to work as smoothly as possible. If both sides worked with a completely open approach to integration and software and let the best functionality win then we, the people of the interweb, would benefit more. In all likelihood both companies would see revenue growth, not from larger market share but from a larger market altogether.

Unfortunately for us, data portability is the stake in the ground, the slap across the face, the declaration of war and the line in the sand. It had to happen eventually and this is probably the whistle that kicks off the main event. While the products on offer will undoubtedly get better and we’ll see that benefit, the potential will not happen as soon as it could have.

A pity, isn’t it?