The jailbreak is on. Facebook started it – probably more than it realized – but now the Open Social web has a life of its own. Google’s move to open APIs- much more so than Facebook – and its embrace of the open social web, not only anoints the social era of the web, but harbingers the end of walled gardens, enclosures, silos, and sticky business models.
Silos have sprung a leak, and it is just a matter of time when the trickle becomes a torrent. When users – people – get their first taste of freedom – when they can easily and meaningfully express themselves, when they feel safe and valued, go where they want, get “invitations” that yield real connections, bring along and hang out with their friends, and make and buy things that matter to them, then even the Uber Silo of Google will be at risk.
Information wants to be free. More so people. It is not a matter of privacy or even security for most. But trust, convenience and mobility. Not just the ability to move from site to site with ease – taking with you information that is yours, but to mashup your friends, interests, and creative works in ways that make sense to U. With this freedom comes the power of collective action, the spontaneous aggregation of people – call them smart mobs, swarms, emergent communities, or whatever, but these people mashups will change the power equation on the web.
Take the example of the recent opening of a new Best Buy store in China. Even before the store had opened its doors, a very smart mob of customers had used their mobile phones to negotiate a collective price for high definition televisions. A price that the newly formed, unnamed “mob” was willing to pay, not what Best Buy wanted to offer, leaving but a hair thin margin for the confounded retailer. Not exactly a propitious opening day!
Retailers take notice and free market advocates beware of what you wish for. New information efficiencies and the bargaining power of mashed up users will forever transform how business is done on the web. Who needs advertising when people willingly, accurately, and persistently reveal what they want, when they want it, and what they are willing to pay ? What happens to the trillion dollars companies are paying to find out and influence what their customer’s want. Now that will be a real sucking sound!
The boundaries between the market and the firm – especially, the retail firm – will become increasingly blurred, if not irrelevant. What about the firm as a producer or supplier? Again, the mashup of independent, autonomous, self-organizing suppliers changes the complexion of what a firm is – moving it away from the cumbersome thumbs of management to the nimble, invisible fingers of a market of suppliers.
It is not just You Tube – but U-Web. Paradoxically, it is also Us-Web , the ability to form communities that express and advance common interests. Market mechanisms will be co-opted to monetize community values – such as green, clean, and local – by issuing social currencies as variants of rewards programs that reflect value and price preferences.
So keep writing those APIs, for they are the keys to unlocking the U-Web.