Tom Webster, writing and speaking

Will Facebook Become The Default Operating System Of The Human Web?

Added on by Tom Webster.

This is slightly off topic for this blog, but I'll keep it short :) Robert Scoble has an excellent piece on Facebook's ambition to essentially own your identity online, which ReadWriteWeb basically calls a deal with the devil. Dave Winer puts it succinctly:

Facebook is to be the identity system for the web. A company? That just can't work.

What strikes me about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is that with this move he is firmly staking his place as the Bill Gates of this young century. As Microsoft Windows was the default operating system of the desktop during the 90's, Facebook is pushing in all of its chips to be the default operating system of humans online for years to come. Scary stuff.

Microsoft continues to have a healthy share of the desktop, but certainly not the monopoly it once held, having first been flanked on both sides by Apple and Linux variants, and then surrounded by the cloud itself. Facebook, too, will have its challengers (though it sure looks like Microsoft has decided to join 'em, not beat 'em.) Certainly Google will maneuver to strengthen its position in the social web, though I share Dave Winer's belief that any company becoming the arbiter of your online identity is a pretty bad idea. Twitter and an increasing number of what Chris Brogan calls "velvet rope" networks may assume the role of Apple in this scenario on the upper end, but the real question is who - or what - becomes the Linux to Facebook's Microsoft?

I don't know enough about the various open source alternatives to speculate, but I am hopeful that standards will emerge and that human citizens (not just the technically literate) will have plentiful options to fully participate online while maintaining complete ownership of their usage data, habits and their own social breadcrumb trail. The open question is whether these practical, user-friendly alternatives will emerge before we become too inextricably tied to Facebook, and Facebook truly becomes too big to fail.

And, in lieu of a 'like' button, I invite your comments :)