social web – Stay N Alive

The Next "Facebook Platform" for the Modern Web, and Why Twitter’s Running the Wrong Way

I’ve talked previously about “the web with no login button”, a vision of the Building Block Web that follows the user where they go, knowing who they are and adapting as they move.  With the advent of mobile, entire operating systems running on the browser, cloud-based personal information stores and APIs such as Kynetx to manage both user and application data for the user, we are so close to being where we want to be!  There’s one hurdle we have to jump before we get there though, and I’m concerned Twitter just ran the wrong direction with their new UI.  The hurdle we’ve got to get around is that of allowing a user’s social connections to also follow them wherever they go, uninhibited by any single corporation.  Not a single big player seems willing to take this step yet, but when it happens, I guarantee you’ll see a revolution at the scale of when Facebook Platform launched in 2007.  The first person to do it gets the opportunity to lead the pack, and hundreds of millions will follow.

I mentioned earlier on Twitter that something about Twitter’s new UI (which I’ve actually only seen screenshots and demos of since I’m not on their Press list) really bugged me but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Perhaps it was hearing Ev emphasize “yet” when talking about CoTweet-like functionality. Perhaps it was hearing Jason Goldman talk about improving their “following” interface to something that I think could potentially threaten some of what I’m doing with my business.  Perhaps it’s the feature they just asked me to kill on SocialToo that I haven’t announced yet.  Perhaps it’s their lack of a solid roadmap like Facebook has to warn developers of what’s ahead and who will be replaced next.  As a developer, every step like this Twitter makes is certainly a threat to my business model and anyone else like me.  It’s definitely a token to their closed nature.  However I think it’s much bigger than that.

I think Alex Payne, of whom I just became a big fan after his recent post on his perceptions of the new UI (a must read), said it perfectly, “all communications media will inevitably be decentralized, and that all businesses who build walled gardens will eventually see them torn down.”  Now, I don’t think all walled gardens will die – Ev William’s own original startup,, remained closed in a time where sites like LiveJournal and WordPress were going completely open source and it was still bought by Google.  In those days, going open source and giving people the opportunity to own their own data stored on each blog was the equivalent of federating social connections would be today – instead of owning content people would now have the opportunity to own their own relationships and port those from site to site if they choose, or host the relationships themselves if they also choose (I’m kind of doing that at  Blogger obviously survived and is now one of the largest blogging platforms on the planet.

Twitter’s new UI, while I’m sure it will increase page views for them and bring them lots of money, is too late for Twitter to do any sort of innovation in this space.  Facebook already did this, and they were called a “walled garden” as a result and are now trying to break out of this reputation as users were getting ready to revolt.  Maybe that’s what Twitter wants, and I’m sure it will make them a lot of money.  They may even gain a large segment of the masses.  Businesses will still flock and so will the money.  I’ve mentioned Twitter’s need to own the UI before, but I argue it’s now too late to be focusing on that.

Twitter could however, have an opportunity to create a new wild west – a new playing field if they choose, a new canvas.  If they do so they need to focus not on the UI, but on the platform and decentralizing it significantly.  Then new opportunities arise such as payments, new service models, search, ad platforms and more that can still make them profitable.  The difference is they’re now spanning the entire web instead of their own walled garden.

I think Facebook started to make moves in this direction as they released Facebook Connect last year, and then Graph API this year along with no restrictions, redacted term limits on storage, and a push further and further away from building on their own UI.  They introduced a new protocol in fact that enables websites to be indexed more properly and enables those websites to more easily bring Facebook connections into the experience.  Facebook is moving from the walled garden approach out into the open web.  Twitter, it seems, is moving in the complete opposite direction, which seems perplexing.

Even Facebook hasn’t hit the nail on the head yet – maybe they’ll make the first move at the next F8 conference.  The next revolution of the web will be when one of these players that currently owns your Social Graph completely federates, creates a standard for others to follow, and then other companies are forced to follow as a result, forcing all the others to rush to find what they’re good at which wasn’t owning your data or social connections.  Then at that point you will truly be allowed to bring your social connections with you wherever you go, allowing for a web with not only no login button, but one where your family and friends follow with you along the way.  That’s a really powerful concept!

Kevin Marks (who led the OpenSocial platform at Google) mentioned the irony in a tweet earlier today of installing the open source social network Diaspora as we were discussing Twitter’s very centralized real time streaming API and federated environments.  I think that Kevin may be part of the revolution and we just don’t know it yet.  If none of these players make a move, it will be the next open source project like WordPress, or LiveJournal did in the early 00’s that will emerge from the dust, gain traction, and the landscape will naturally adapt.  It has to happen – it’s going to happen, and the first big player to do it will lead the way. I’m excited to find out who makes that move and I’m already thinking of ways I can jump on that bandwagon as a developer.

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Goodbye RSS. Welcome Real-Time Web!

RSSA few weeks back I mentioned here that I was giving myself a whole week without a single check of my Google Reader feeds in order to see how reliant I had become on RSS, and where I could shift my priorities in order to become more productive. It’s a technique I tried last year with Twitter, and I think proves effective with anything you want to gain a new perspective on. I mentioned I was going to report after my hiatus, and I admit I have been slacking, considering it’s now almost a month later. The time has been good on me though, as I’ve been able to learn how to adapt after my hiatus, and have found several things that have worked for me.

What I Learned

Going without RSS was insightful.  I learned what was really important to me, what I may be able to do without, and what I would miss without RSS.  First of all, the things I learned that were most important:

  • Blogs I write on – it’s important for me to know what my co-authors were writing so I can stay up to date, as well as promote the content of the blogs I write for.
  • Family – I follow several of my family members who blog. Knowing what they, and close friends write about is important to me, and saves me the need for the dreaded family newsletter we used to have to pass around.
  • Guilty Pleasures – okay, perhaps these could go within the “do without” column, but let’s face it – we all have a few blogs we read that are just enjoyable to read.  They keep us sane, and give us balance to our days.

Believe it or not, that’s about it.  To help explain why, let’s go with what I can do without:

  • Most tech blogs – lets face it, I can now pull most of my favorite blogs from sites like FriendFeed and Twitter.  Better yet, FriendFeed, Facebook and Twitter work better for “media snacking” because I can filter results by number of people talking about each topic.  I can also hold a conversation with a large group of people on each topic, and help promote the blog I’m reading much more than I can in a Reader.  Believe it or not (and I learned this from my friend, Jeremiah Owyang), I can get most major news by just checking FriendFeed or Facebook or Twitter.  I have yet to miss anything I regretted losing.
  • SharingGoogle Reader (my preferred RSS Reader), and most RSS reader tools out there are very outdated in the way they let you share the feeds you read.  I would much rather share something on FriendFeed, where I can re-post out to Twitter, post an image with the feed, or encourage much more conversation, real-time, with a very large audience.  I can’t do that effectively with Google Reader.
  • Mundane news – I noticed after my week was over that I was subscribed to a lot of just dumb news that really was unimportant to me.  It was cool for that “one special article” the authors would some times write, but I found many of those were also sharing on FriendFeed or Facebook, and I could get my news there instead.  In addition, there were many news sources that would just repeat news from other sources, making many of my feeds redundant.
  • Shares from many of my friends – A lot of the shares I was getting on Google Reader I was also getting on Twitter and FriendFeed, and I was also already subscribed to the blog they were sharing.  I hid most of those sharers from view, and instead added them to my “Favorites” filter list on FriendFeed.  Now I still get all their shares, and can freely discuss, real-time with them and others rather than fracturing the conversation.  If you want to share stuff with me, make sure I see it on FriendFeed.

Of course, there were several things I found I couldn’t ever leave.  RSS is not, nor will it ever be completely unnecessary, although I can very easily see myself being proven wrong in the “never” category there as well.  I found several things I just missed, and still can’t think of a perfect way to solve.  Those include the following:

  • Blog mentions of my company, name, or brand – the infamous “ego search”, as it’s called, is very important to brands and learning what others are saying about you.  It’s how you can get eavesdrop, know where you stand, and perhaps step in where necessary.  Notice I said “blog” though.  Through FriendFeed, now in the Beta you can set up your own “ego filters” and save them in the right-hand sidebar.  Any mention of your name in the comments and posts will appear in your filters.  On Twitter, you can always use, or a separate column in TweetDeck or PeopleBrowsr, or as I’m currently doing, set up a custom search in CoTweet for your brand name and track it that way.  No RSS needed.
  • Comment tracking – on any post I do for, there is no way via Disqus for me to track just the comments from the posts that I wrote.  Therefore, I subscribe to each post’s RSS comments that I write, and any new comments come into my feed reader.  I do this with many blogs that don’t provide a way other than RSS for me to track all the comments.
  • Wiki, forum, and other site tracking – one strategy I use to get the latest data is to track the “recent changes” on MediaWiki installs.  This is available via RSS, and any change will be sent to your RSS reader.  In addition, forums do the same thing.  For forums, being replaced more and more by microblogs, it will be interesting to see how necessary this becomes, but it’s necessary for the moment.  Now, I’m curious who creates the first real-time Wiki (send your royalties my way).

RSS is not dead.  It’s just losing its value.  As the web gets more and more real-time, we are less and less having the need to have data pushed to us via RSS – we can go get what we want, when we want it, from any point in time.  We can now, through filters and real-time data, retrieve much of the data we want to get, in an environment amongst peers.  Google Reader itself is old – it’s slow to adapt, and I just can’t see it keeping up with sites such as FriendFeed, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you want me to read your stuff, I still subscribe to some RSS feeds, but if you want to guarantee I see your stuff, subscribe to me via FriendFeed and get my attention there. Your site, in order to continue in the future will need to be part of the real-time web and those that don’t keep up will be left in the past.  You can follow me on FriendFeed at (check out for a true realtime experience!), or on Facebook at  I can’t wait to read your stuff there!  You can read all the content I write across all the blogs I write for, real-time, in the custom FriendFeed room I created at – either subscribe to the room in FriendFeed, or you can add it to your RSS Reader! 😉  Of course, as always, for the old-fashioned out there you can always subscribe to this blog at

Are there any other things you can see a need to use RSS for?  What other techniques have you begun using to adapt to the real-time web?