back to article Facebook, Google, and the war to lock you in

Facebook isn't necessarily the new Compuserve, and Google might not be angling to be the Hotel California of tech, but all of the big web giants seem intent on locking their users into experiencing a single-vendor web. Facebook riled users this week by throttling their ability to export their Facebook friends' data for use …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    This article is more insightful...

    ... than the headline would suggest.

    An example from real world would be, if you are in the (un?)enviable position of being wooed by 2 femmes, the 2nd one to enter the trios will almost always be err... more "open".

    1. Bumpy Cat

      Wrong audience ...

      You should use an example more relevant to our experience ...


  2. Anonymous Coward

    One very simple solution.

    Don't use either of these clowns offerings...and they can't possibly lock you in.

    The world survived BEFORE Farcebook & Google...the world will continue to revolve if people don't use them now.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      The world survived...

      before many inventions. The computer is a reasonably superfluous tool when all things are considered, as the internet, which you seem more than happy to abuse.

  3. Gil Grissum

    It won't be Facebook

    Myspace lost out by making the Stream a default on the start page. Now they're getting bought up by someone who hopefully will get rid of the default everybody feed and allow users to control who's feed they want to see. Same thing with Facebook. I don't want to see everyone's stupid self absorbed commentary, only certain people I want to keep up with. I don't need to keep up with every single person on my list. And yes, Facebook chat and particularly, their e-mail feels like an add on that I only use if I need to get in touch with someone who doesn't have GTalk.

    1. Nigel Brown

      If you bother to look

      You already have the option to exempt 'friends' from appearing in your news feed.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Tell me

        Do you really believe that those "options" you mention actually work ?

        1. wag


          Yes, they do work. They may not be easy to find, or as user friendly as they should be, but they do work.

          I dislike facebook for a number of reasons but I can't deny that their offering does what it says on the tin.

  4. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Open Source Standards

    The Corporate behemoths are willing to take in (and lock-in) the poor saps stuck in No-Man's Land. Standards Authorities make a huge extinguishing mistake when they seek interoperability at the 'You' level. Their domain is No-Man's Land. When they give 'You' up, there is no further point.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    A similar idea was expressed in

    the recent Superbrands documentary about tech brands - basically that the big tech companies now are not just about shifting individual units of their hardware or software, but about establishing themselves as a "portal" for further consumer activity (eg Apple with the App store, Facebook and apps/games) ... and obviously for that portal to be profitable the users need to be tied in.

  6. sandman

    Internet or web?

    The internet certainly looks like being divided into a number of walled gardens from a communication point of view, however, the same doesn't necessarily apply in other areas. Speaking personally (no research done here, so it's all opinion), many of us use the <emphasis>web</emphasis> much in the way it was designed for. We research, write, publish, link, colloborate, critisise, get critisised, etc. This part is still free. Social networking, downloading and mail are not the web as such, they are part of the wider internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Internet or web?

      There was a study mentioned on here a couple of weeks ago that suggested that Farcebook usage topped out at about 50 percent when it hit saturation. Even allowing for other "social media" there's still a lot of people for whom it is only a small part of their web "experience", and plenty more who don't use it at all. These few companies might well dominate the discussion in the media, but that's a long way, as you say, from being the only game in town. I would guess that the number of people so engaged with one company that they are actually in a position to be "locked in" is pretty small, with those in the hardware business (especially Apple) being the most likely to achieve it to at least level - for the life of the hardware, at least.

  7. Gordon 10


    I hardly think all the web 2.0 arrhea being silo'd is a bad thing. Keeps all the dross away from those of us on the real interwebs.

    Besides openess and closedness is irrelevant to most consumers - as long as the cattle accept the status quo and it works for them.

    As with most things we get the internet we deserve and knowledgable like you and me are the exceptions that prove the rule.

  8. ProNetworkBuild

    Google is Making A Mistake Alienating Active Twitter Acct Managers

    I think Google will rue the day it decided to put more emphasis on its Plus instead of Tweets. Tweets are real time relevant and keep track of things in real time.... It is the pulse of the Internet, not some untried technology used by less than a tenth of one percent of Internet Users like Google Plus.

    Second, Google's new search in and of itself keeps locking up various machines ( that I work from ) with it's new search technology, "suggesting" finishing my sentences for me, which I do not want, and I am going to start suggesting my clients use other search engines which is about all I ever use Google for anymore anyway.

    Third, I think Google is making in roads with Android, and Mobile Search is and will continue to be where the market is headed with coupons, locality based searches, and the fact that most consumers have always done business within 5 miles of their doorstep. Google should focus on Mobile Apps, Local Search, and Local Advertising as opposed to worrying itself on another social product that nobody wants and possibly alienate the active Twitter users, LinkedIn, and FB.

    Lastly is the recession. Social Media in general, right along with more specifically Twitter and Facebook only have this honeymoon period because of the great recession of the last 3 or so years. It has been the perceived notion ( true or false is besides the point ) that Social Media is FREE by corporate decision makers, or in the very least, Low Cost marketing. This perception, that companies could network virtually free by getting it's employees to blog, and open Twitter accounts, and get on LinkedIn sounded great on the surface. We all know it takes more than just opening accounts, it takes PARTICIPATION. But the trend was prominent, and gained momentum, and Social Media sites like the Big 3 have benefited greatly from this recession. It is quite possible that corporate decision makers would not have been swift to get into Social Media had this FREE perception not been there in the first place. And of course, once the competition gets into setting up profiles, companies lose by default by not participating. With the end of the recession, and by studying the long term effects of social media overload, we might see a dramatic shift AWAY from social media, and the whole industry evolve and innovate away from existing models entirely.

    So when we see that the entire trend into Social Media may only be ephemeral, gOOGle placing so much emphasis on controlling the market and tweaking it's algorithms back and forth to prejudice competition can alienate active users who benefit from their own platforms. To give an example:

    We posted a new article on Scribd yesterday. A national holiday no less. That article received over 500 hits in it's first 12 hours using only Twitter to drive traffic to Scribd. Google was NOT involved in anyway. No organic search for the topic originated one single hit. NOT ONE. So the Traffic to be gained by participating with Twitter and recognising the search capabilities and social benefit of Twitter will far outweigh alienating the user. Frankly, the author is contemplating taking down his BlogSpot blog ( owned by Google ) and transferring all his articles over to Scribd simply because he doesn't see Google playing fairly.

    I have to go, I have accounts to manage. Great Article. Great Writing. THANK YOU for taking the time to pen it. Lonny Dunn Tweets at @ProNetworkBuild

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      But I'm sure it was really good :-)

    2. Asgard

      @“dramatic shift AWAY from social media" and site lock in.

      @ProNetworkBuild, I was with you for most of what you said, but I don't think we will see a dramatic shift away from social media. I'm sure it will evolve and new sites will try to get into the market (as they are already trying to do), but social networking of some kind will always be around. Too many people want it in one form or another, so Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, they all have a place and appeal to different people.

      I have very little interest in Twitter and Facebook and both have a very bad signal to noise ratio so they bore me. Plus there's so much to see on the Internet, that I mostly prefer more deep sources of information, so sometimes I can have more interest in some blogs etc..

      But social networking of some kind is here to stay. (Scary thought isn't it ;)

      But I would say all these sites are trying some form of lock in, but I hope they don't ever succeed. But then the Internet routes around blocks and controls, so I can't see any site ever succeeding in their need to totally control users unless that site plays some very underhanded government moves against us all, like getting governments to force everyone to sign up to the site. I've heard it suggested already for Facebook and too hell with that idea. I (like a lot of people) would fight every step of the way against any company ever gaining that level of power to spy on us all and the thought of a government forcing people onto such a site is abhorrent. Any government who tries to bring in such a move would have to go and I'm sure any company trying such a move would suffer a public backlash fate far worse than Sony has suffered. So any company trying to extend its lock in, better tread very carefully, because if their dare to make a deal with governments, they risk facing extreme public anger.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hate Facebook...

    I think I'll just stick with goold old IRC.

    That way I don't have to be bombarded with annoying group/page invites.

    "someone invites you to join 'I laughed so hard when I saw this picture of this cat!'"

    No, fuck off. ¬_¬

  10. Facebook will have hell to pay

    Facebook is signing its own death warrant

    Here's an experiment I just did following a comment to the effect Facebook were censoring threads by a close relative. It's an experiment which any Facebook user can easily repeat. Start a Facebook thread with a number of quotes, including from Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, Bill Gates etc. and see which of these get deleted by Facebook. In my case I posted a single verse and chorus lyric from Mr Tambourine Man, and Facebook software deleted it, despite the fact that within the thread context this was clearly fair use. Facebook can only be trusted as a neutral message boy if they don't fuck with our communications by opening messages and throwing stuff away arbitrarily.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Nefarious activity or poor anti-spam?

      Did they say that the one line copy-paste was infringing?

      Just thinking about the crazy heuristics that we use for anti-spam in the mail space. Copy-paste of text from elsewhere, at least a couple of years back, was a popular way of trying to fool the anti-spam systems (something to do with logic the anti-spam systems had previously been using to rate messages as valid vs. potential spam IIRC).

      Not trying to excuse them, regardless of what you issue was, just curious... that's all.

  11. Justin Clements


    These are private companies. Why is anyone expecting them to be "open" in the first place?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Open for imports

      Not enough Dumb Fucks to go around you see.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    What a great world

    will it be when BigCos and states will stop economic competition for economic collaboration.

    Mutual goals. Meaningful use of ressources. Faster progression for everyone.

    Efficiency and beauty rather than mere profit.

    I might be dreamy this morning, but it make me feel good.

    Time for a first coffee.

  13. Neil Charles

    We are, how you say? Underdogsh.

    "Microsoft, for its part, is playing catch-up in all this, but underdogs always compete with open strategies, and Microsoft is no different. The question is whether it can buy or build its way back into a fighting position"

    And the answer, is no.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Don't be evil!


  15. mark 63 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    gosh i was totally unaware

    I didnt know i was such a prisoner!

    I have a browser

    I have an email address

    I go anywhere i feel like on the internet

    If someone wants to talk to me they do it by email , or they get lost.

    I'm still not sure i see the problem

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It might be when....

      If you live in the UK, the UK gov decides you need to use Facebook as some form of identity, or need to go to some crappy facebook/whatever to get information you need. Ive noticed already in marketing billboards a surprising number of adverts (unrelated to Facebook) which list only Facebook URLs. I refuse to use Facebook, and this trend concerns me.

      1. mark 63 Silver badge

        re It might be when...

        thinking about it that has already happened - i work at a gvt body , and recently we had to remove Farcebook from the 50% of the net we block becuse the comms department had decided the best way to communicate with the 'customers' was through faceboot

  16. andy 45

    Is this the same Google I know

    The author thinks Google will 'revive its open approach to the web'?

    This is the same Google which apparently now demands phone number verification to open a Gmail account, and then demands that all Youtube users open a Gmail account and are required to link it to their Youtube.

    I see no signs of 'open'.

    1. M Gale

      A bit shit.

      A cheeky way to get around this however, is to nip into Tesco (or Wal*Mart, or whatever megastore of your choice) and buy a shit PAYG mobile phone for £10/$10/whatever. You know, the ones that cost ten quid and you get ten quid of top-up with them anyway? That or a SIM card if you already have an unlocked phone to put it in. Use once, then toss or give to a frenemy.

      Though I haven't seen phone verification for gmail yet. I know because I had to make a couple of throwaway accounts to activate someone's iSomething for them. Unless of course it's changed in the last couple of months.

      Did need phone verification for a Google App Engine key though.

      1. Mitch Kent
        Big Brother

        Still need to prove you are who you say you are

        Having just done this to take a crappy phone to the festival I daren't mention, they required outright that I supply them with valid ID for them to note down else they wouldn't be able to give me a PAYG sim card and insisted it was a legal requirement, even when I pushed back hard.

  17. TeeCee Gold badge

    Just one question.

    What happened to Compu$pend and AOL, the last two great, all-encompassing walled gardens of locked-in content.......?

    Just as "giving loads of money to people who can't give it back" never seems to work for the Banking industry, I can't see "screwing your users and betting the farm on them not walking away" becoming a success in the online world any time soon.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Google open = no

    Google want to be 'open' when it suits them or to make a product popular / to kill the competition. It's then also happy to play the 'closed' card when it has you hooked or is facing stiff competition itself.

    1. Chris 3

      ...They do at least...

      ... give you the opportunity to export your data out.

  19. Wize

    They cut twitter in favour of google+...

    ...but Google+ isnt fully operational yet.

    Nose off to spite face?

  20. nichobe

    C'mon El Reg

    Let me +1 this article! I am running out of things to do with Google+. My 3or4 big friends circle of trust have equally nothing to +1.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    don't make me do a google boycott, it won't be bad for me. I have a real isp. google doesn't have all the search engines, and ultimately can't control who I use for email. The way to get around the AT&T thing is not use AT&T.

    In fairness, I have gotten a lot of free smpt, pop3, service (even if it is on different ports) via google. Mostly cause they are so good at killing spam and my crap takes care of the worms which is why I stay for now, it's pretty much flawless with the occasional whitelist snafu.

    ppl that use html mail are idiots who learn to re-format their respective os or perish.

    I have mixed feelings about google. I can find things with other search engines just as well as google, sometimes better. On the other hand they link my stuff my websites out there too, sometimes I want them to link, sometimes I don't. I think all this is low level problems.

    Our mutual governments being the #1 problems.

    When they dig into stuff like this, they ignore the banksters and wars and rights.

  22. mraak

    FB mail?

    Anyone uses it? I haven't got any email yet from that domain? It was announced as a gmail killer, but that was oh' so last week.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Is this the start of...

    ... the two-tiered internet?

    One for the brain-dead and another tier for those slightly less so?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The start of?

      You must be new here...

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