I hear a lot of people wanting the social network silos (mainly Facebook and Twitter) to go away. I too want them to go. Eventually. But before they do, I want to examine some things in this little essay.
Some Good Things that the Silos Did
Search: Facebook and Twitter punched a hole in the Google search monopoly. Before these social networks, Google and Google alone dictated what you would find on the Web. And you did the finding through Google. With, first Twitter and later Facebook, suddenly you didn’t need Google to find stuff on the Web. Suddenly a little obscure website could become famous without or in spite of Google. If you really sit down and think about it, that is no small thing.
Moreover, that hole in Google (plus Google’s bad record on privacy) gave smaller search engines just enough breathing room to try and become established (ie. Duckduckgo, Qwant, Mojeek.)
Web Advertising: Again, before Facebook and Twitter, Google had a lock on both search advertising and display advertising. Facebook in particular opened that up. Suddenly, sellers had an alternative place for ad campaigns besides something owned by Google. If you are not selling stuff this means nothing to you, but if you are in business, large or small, it means a lot.
Traffic: Posting on Facebook and Twitter can drive a lot of traffic to your website or blog. Syndication (crossposting) is just another way of posting. I’m convinced that a whole new generation has grown up that really does not remember the times before Facebook, Twitter and the other social network silos. I can see it by their actions and inactions. They don’t know how to get traffic besides syndicating to Facebook and Twitter. What happens if those two cut off syndication? What happens if everybody leaves FB and Twitter so nobody reads your posts?
See, right now as a blogger, I don’t really need Google traffic. I have Indieweb webmentions, Twitter and other social networks for traffic. But if Twitter goes down or walls itself off, it is going to be lean pickings for visitors.
My biggest fear, is that if Facebook and Twitter suddenly crumble, we will go right back to having Google control everything. By that I mean Google will control both traffic and discovery on the Web.
Yes it won’t be quite as all pervasive as it was before, at least as long as Bing sticks around and does not jump the shark. Indieweb stuff is good but still a tiny niche (heck blogs are a small niche). Smart things are being worked on, experimented with, new kinds of automated directories, new innovative webrings, – all discovery tools but they are not ready yet, that and nobody among the public know how to use them. Things like RSS, which is a good source of repeat traffic, are experiencing a revival, but again this is just a small segment. Given time I think RSS will be big but it ain’t there yet.
Google is a silo too. And I can tell you Google is part of what sucked all the fun out of Web 1.0. Facebook and Twitter were not even around. It was Google. And living under Google dominance is no fun. Right now the Facebooks and the Twitters are still around so word can spread without Google. It’s a rare opportunity but you better hurry.
Seriously, if FB and Twitter unravel quickly, how do we counter the Google silo? Ideas?