The slow death of Interoperability

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 11.08.40You won’t see this image on Twitter anymore. This week this feature got turned off. In a world where most brands are constantly looking for a new feature or a marginal improvement over the competition it seems a bit weird but it is a sign of the times and of our reliance on walled, tethered ecosystems.

I suspect the change will be a minor inconvenience for most users, myself included. But the fact that it feels like a backward step for the user is symptomatic of long term threats to how we use the web and the internet. It is another reminder that in the war between the web giants, the ignored wishes of users are mere collateral damage in the pursuit of a return for speculators gambling on when the bubble will burst.

And it is another reminder that you are not the customer of Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. You are their product, to be sold to the highest bidding advertiser. It is somewhat ironic that the users who made the Web 2.0 companies great in the first place now have to simply put up with whatever changes are foisted on them. The recent changes to Instagram’s ToS (see bottom of the post) are a great example of that. Some brave souls have quit Facebook in protest of recent changes to privacy policy, but I suspect the majority have no desire to face being so socially out of the loop and to give up the free and useful services they are used to.

The balance between the needs of advertising customers and those of end users is becoming harder and harder to strike as the “everything on one platform” approach is seemingly the only viable commercial approach given active users on your platform mean ad revenues. And it partly explains the launch of photo filters on Twitter so you no longer have to leave Twitter to use that pesky Facebook-owned Instagram.

But this commercial battle damages interoperability. Interoperability is great for users and great for the web. Free flowing user traffic, Like liquidity in the financial system, makes the whole system work. Users can view the content they want and access the services they want and have it all work together in the way they want. And they can click on the ads and referral links they want too. It seems a bit doom and gloom but I suspect that when Facebook or Twitter or whomever win, all of us lose.



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