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Facebook is the new Compuserve

Facebook is useful in its ability to help create conversations, but it's potentially dangerous in the stranglehold it maintains on those conversations, just like Compuserve of old.

Want to know what prominent Apache Software Foundation and former Google developer Greg Stein thinks about MySQL, the GPL, and the European Commission's antitrust stance on Oracle/Sun? You've got two options.

You can read his original post here, of course. But if you want better commentary, you'll need to read this same post on Facebook.

You can check out any time you like...

Except that you probably can't, unless you're Stein's "friend" on Facebook.

Open Web, meet your closed cousin, Facebook.

People rightly fret about Facebook's twisting, turning approach to privacy, but perhaps a far greater concern is that so much great content is locked up at all.

Let's be honest: as much as we may pretend we're concerned about our privacy, the reality is that most of us most of the time appear to be hell-bent on revealing details about our innermost thoughts on a scale only the Internet can provide. As ZDNet's Larry Dignan opines, "We're all Google-tethered zombies who go about life without a hoot for privacy."

That's why, as TechCrunch reports, we're even happily sharing the details of our credit card transactions online.


The real concern is that we share so much behind the closed doors of Compuserve-esque Web "sites" that serve as Hotel Californias for our content. Yes, I want to keep some conversations private, but as more of my ramblings move to Facebook and other closed corners of the Web, I want to broaden the conversation beyond the borders of my "friends" list.

I can't. I'm stuck. What happens on Facebook, stays on Facebook. Even content that is cross-posted elsewhere: the ensuing commentary (often of equal or greater value to the original post) is trapped.

Professor Jonathan Zittrain raises a warning voice about this in his "The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It", but I can't help but think that the convenience of Facebook will trump the social benefits of broadening conversations beyond the borders of such services.

Of course, it's very possible that openness trumps all, and that, like Compuserve before it, Facebook's walled-garden approach to the Web will go out with a whimper.

Unlike Compuserve, however, Facebook is helping people to tame the disorder of the Web. There really wasn't much content to tame prior to AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, etc. These companies corralled and created the content that populated their services. Facebook doesn't.

Do you share my concern? Or do you think it's just a moment in time that will resolve itself quickly? Please comment here...and not on my Facebook page. :-)

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.