Consumer Internet

Open beats closed, and cutting off your nose to spite your face

By January 4, 2008 No Comments

Prompted by Paul Walsh and as part of a New Years resolution to get more deeply immersed in social media I will be twittering more again going forward (really started yesterday).  I first started playing with Twitter in a small way last summer but ended up ditching it in favour of Facebook’s status updates.

So my first thought was to find a way to have my tweets automatically update my Facebook status.  My first searches found only posts like this one which described work arounds that delivered on the above objective.  The problem is that they had all removed the code from the posts, blaming it on Facebook:

It has recently come to my attention that creating automated scripts that interact with Facebook is a violation of the Terms of Service agreement. Facebook contacted me and advised me to please remove my code, which I have graciously done. I am not exactly sure of the limitations since 8hands does it as mentioned below in the comments. I will keep you updated of future progression. If you have downloaded the code, you should stop using it or risk losing your Facebook account.

I figured out how to do it in the end using the Twitter Facebook app (thanks to Mitch for the pointer), but  my immediate reaction was to be pretty irritated.  It looked like they were forcing me to do the extra work of updating two services.  Not only does that eat into my spare time, it increases the risk to Facebook that I will one day drop them in favour of Twitter (or another socnet that offers better integration).

Once I learned the Twitter Facebook app now has an option that solves my problem (it didn’t when I first installed it last summer) I thought I would keep my irritation to myself, but when I read about Rhapsody closing down YottaMusic I couldn’t help myself.

For a while it looked like everyone had learned the lesson of AOL from web1.0, that open beats closed, but increasingly it seems not.  This amazes me.
The issue we are discussing isn’t black and white and I agree that companies need to work hard to maintain their competitive advantage and barriers to entry – e.g. socnets aren’t likely to allow us to export our friends lists any time soon.  But in this case Facebook and Rhapsody are doing something different – they are insisting on total control over how people use their services instead of opening themselves to third party innovation and letting people use their services in the way that is best for them.

It seems to me that is just dumb.  At the end of the day they aren’t achieving much more than making the experience worse for their customers.  Trying to grab back that little bit of extra control is like cutting your nose off to spite your face.