The following, given to my online acquaintance and fellow civil liberty maven, Jon Pincus; a reply to his question about alternatives and options to Google (and their ilk). Alas, too long for the wonder of Diaspora (Yosem! We needs notes!!!), so placed here.
Use promotes continuance, period. I realize that, for most, the matter comes to, “what else gives me as much as I now have?” rendering the discussion as a variant of “fear of loss”; I find this somewhat curious as it has been made quite clear that no one “has” a thing when using these services except access and, even then, only to the degree they’re willing to endure whatever intrusion and mandate is set before them… the only thing they “have” is the chance to add to some company’s ever expanding set of data at the expense of their choice and privacy. Mind you, most do not seem to understand this, but that hardly neutralizes it as “how things are”.
The next question you ask, “what are my choices?” just makes the preceding paragraph all the more odious – as there has been no reason for any of these companies to offer other than this because, until now, people didn’t know the fullness of the above as being the case. So, is there any one solution that gives someone “everything”? Of course not; but I see this as asking the wrong question. I’d ask instead, “Companies are abusing the position you gave them (via use) not to listen… what are YOU going to do about it?” There are MANY offerings that allow for both choice, privacy, and as solid security as may be had given that rule #1 is “there’s no such thing as perfect or permanent security” but yes, any of them require you to actually care about developing your own insight and understanding of how things work.
This, in a nutshell, is the tradeoff — company’s relieve you of having to develop insight and understanding at the cost of your choice, privacy, and ability to protect yourself or easily extricate yourself if you ever do figure it out (as we see with Facebook’s two-week deletion policy, Google’s multi-faceted entrenchment model et al). Hardly equitable; but we now know this, too.
The situation is not new, Jon; we’ve been here before… there was a time when no one knew how to “get to the internet”, when only BBS users or UNIX users could ferret out and figure out how Archie, or FTP worked, or cared to figure out the Command Line Interface by which such things once were accessed, or learn how to get TIA and SlipKnot and a browser working; there was a time when this very model of trading insight and understanding for convenience and access was popular and leveraged by companies like Prodigy, Compuserve, and AOL.
We’ve seen this pattern before, Jon… we know what walled gardens are, and we already know the answer to how they rot and die over time; why pretend that time and the presence of different companies has changed it? The cycle and its pattern of eventual progress toward full iteration hasn’t changed since the first human figured out how to get money out of the next and I doubt seriously it will ever change because, frankly, there will always be people who don’t want to do it themselves and there will always be people willing to do it for them (for a price), and there will also always be the slow, eventual trend from mutual benefit to predation in the name of limiting market competition and erosion.
At some point, the bane of corpocracy kicks in — the interests of the company eclipse the interests of the customers they serve. When this happens, there are only two outcomes:
- A “reboot” via customer rebellion/abandonment/loss of market base OR
- An increase of “the ante” that creates incentive for the customer to endure the shift in benefit.
At the moment, Facebook and Google, etc. are pursuing #2 for all they’re worth. The funny part? The part they still haven’t figured out? The part that makes this ironic?
All roads eventually lead to #1.
What does that mean?
Well, if we look to our relatively recent history, I think it’s quite clear, actually:
- Tools and services that allow greater control and protection will arrive.
- Outlets where the things people want are available without the demands of established providers (you know, like Netscape and Mozilla and dial-up providers did for the Compuserve, Prodigy, and AOL users).
Sites like Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, WordPress, and yes, Diaspora, too are the beginning of this transition, Jon, and it’s one that is largely invisible if your perspective is “This is the way it is, this is the way it must be.”
The upshot? Well Jon, I’m pretty sure you “grok” it by now… this may well be the way it is at this moment, but I assure you, this will not be the way it remains. We’re in a time of transition and, frankly, “everything old is new again” is about to happen right before our eyes. In my opinion, those clinging to Google today are not unlike those who clung to AOL right up until it finally exhausted itself. They cling for the same reasons, they will continue to do so because of them. But, as we also know, it doesn’t stop the cycling of this pattern, not even a little.
You see, Jon, it isn’t a question of “what else is there?”, it’s a question of “will you abandon your walled garden to find out?” And, I admit, I’ve never been much for waiting for the world to drop in my lap.