It is interesting to see how the social networks (facebook, twitter, google+,…) are evolving when compared to the original Internet: The social networks are a closed box, it is not really possible to connect one network to another. In contrast, IP networks or applications like email are designed open. Thus, any company (or private user) can connect to the Internet and communicate via open protocols. Or one can run its own email server that connects to other email servers via well-defined protocols.

Now, I know, that the user base of social networks to some extend is their capital. Hence, a lock-in maybe be wanted to a certain degree. However, when compared to the history of the Internet, I wonder whether this lack of interoperability etc. will hinder innovation and evolution. Based on its open architecture the Internet (and the PC) evolved quickly and provided a great platform motivating and fostering others try new ideas. Now, the APIs around the social networks also allow such new ideas, but they seem to focus on the “around”. Hence, the access to the core network is limited.

Overall, I wonder whether this closed architecture will hinder evolution and innovation in the long run. Maybe, once their usage patterns and applications stabilize, we can find a way to deeply interconnect the different social networks. This might also allow one to choose a social networks based on criteria such as privacy and functionality and reduce the pressure of being in one particular network just because everybody else is there, too.

Side notes:

1. I know that companies in the social network world are highly innovative companies. Running their own systems allows them to deploy new ideas quickly. Note, that my thoughts are more general.

2. This is not meant as a call for standardization: standardization processes as we know them today maybe too heavy-weight for this fast-moving area.