Is Facebook the new AOL? I think not.

Facebook is opening up their platform (ie, becoming a platform). I can see the attraction of that huge userbase. I also hear people say that it’s just like a new AOL, a new walled garden. I’m not sure yet, but I think, perhaps, not.

Here’s why.

I remember that, a few years ago, we were working hard on spreading the gospel of videoblogging, and Kenyatta Cheese told me of some workshops he did with teenagers. It turned out that they enjoyed putting videos on social networks (LiveJournal) a lot more than starting their own blogs, and the reason was the feeling of community, the comments they got from their friends. Simple.

Us bloggers had a large discussion about this at the first ever Vloggercon, where we felt that it’s much more important to have control over your own blog, and why would you want to put your soul on some social network owned by BigCo, and we need to teach these teenagers what’s important. Old farts! So that’s a huge cultural gap there (some people say it might be as large as the cultural gap between parents and kids in the 50s-60s), that continues to play in these type of comments on Facebook’s strategy being old-school.

The second reason, and this remains to be proven, is that facebook seems much smarter about being “open”. They let their own apps compete with provider apps. That means a healthy ecosystem can grow, and be it that crucial data is being controlled by 1 entity, it will be successful.

Of course, I still open some kind of open, distributed social networking thing will come next. It almost has to, you would think. So in that sense, yes, the Facebook stage is only an intermediate step. But it will still be big, because that next step in the evolution hasn’t taken off yet.

Just some morning thoughts :)

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