What should social media be like

The best thing about the Internet is that it’s an open network. You can just connect your computer, open your browser and see any website you want -except if you are using some versions of Internet Explorer. You can open your email client or web-mail service, and email anybody you want as long as you have their email address. And of course you can create your own browser or email client knowing that, following the existing standards, it will work.

This quality of the Internet, its openness, is so important we fight fiercely against any attempt to kill it (SOPA, PIPA, Ley Sinde, Hadopi… you name it). Yet we are letting social media destroy the openness of the Internet by creating closed platforms that get so big you can’t just leave them.

Imagine that you could only call or send and SMS to those friends who have the contracts with the same provider than you do. Or that Gmail users could only email Gmail users. That’s exactly what happens with most social media platforms: you need to have Facebook to interact with your Facebook friends, WhatsApp to talk to your WhatsApp friends, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Skype, Google+, Messenger, BBM, iMessage… there is even a whole business of services like Hootsuite or Sproutsocial just to manage all your profiles from one place!

Think about it. How much time do we waste keeping all those profiles up to date and checking if any friend posted something somewhere? How many people would like to quite Facebook but can’t because all their friends and literally 10 years of their life are already there? What’s the point of uploading all your pictures and tagging everyone if sooner or later that platform is going to be done, closed and forgotten? How on Earth are you going to try something new if first you need to convince all your friends to try it too so it actually makes sense to use it?

I believe the need of supreme power and control that companies like Facebook or Google feel is killing our relationship with the Internet. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have your personal profile in a way that you can do whatever you want with it? Just think of a supercharged email system. Some kind of standard format to keep your digital history (posts, links shared, images posted, profile picture, contacts…) in one place, and do whatever you want with it. So if I like Facebook but you are done with it and want to try Google+ we can still be friends and talk to each other without both having to keep two accounts in different places.

This system would also be tremendously beneficial for new businesses. Instead of having to steal millions of users at once from other platforms you could go ahead and create your own system, conquering users one by one. Platforms focused on design and customization, platforms based on ease of use and strong privacy settings, platforms supported by advertising, platforms where users have to pay to keep their accounts…. we could have specialized platforms for small niches with specific needs, something that currently is just unthinkable because it’s not a sustainable business -and because it doesn’t make sense if you can’t talk with everybody else.

In brief, the idea is that with a standardized social media environment the possibilities would be endless. As they always have been with the Internet, and as they should always be.

What do you think?

My favorite free Android apps (second edition)

foursquare-checkin

Around a year ago I published a short list with my favorite free Android apps. Itśs a nice list, but a little outdated: specially in the past few months I have become a heavy user of some powerful free apps that I want to share, so here it is the updated list of my favorite free Android apps.

1- Foursquare. Since I have decided to get a cell-phone plan with lots of Internet I love this “game” even more than before. I love to check-in everywhere, I use it to tell everyone where am I when I’m traveling and I use it to find nice restaurants around my location. From the other side, I believe Foursquare is a great marketing tool, specially in terms of engagement with customers.

2- Skype. Still the best VoIP service available (and hopefully Microsoft doesn’t get on the way…). A must if you have a long distance relationship and you don’t want to waste all your time waiting in front of the computer for a call of your beloved.

3- Whatsapp. This app is probably in the top 3 apps of every single smart-phone user. It mixes the best of texting with the best of Internet chats, allowing you to talk with one person, create group conversations, share multimedia files… just the perfect communication tool, since you only pay for the Internet use and that is most probably covered with your plan already.

4- Google Reader.I only discover Google Reader’s real strength a few weeks ago (shame on me), but it’s the Android app what made me fall in love with it. It literally puts in your hand the access to all the media of the world in a fast, categorized and customized way, and from the same app you can share it however you want through the apps installed in your phone. I think this is the best example of the importance of RSS and syndicated content for any web.

5- Hootsuite. A year ago I used to use (and love) Seesmic to manage my Twitter accounts. I still think it’s a great tool, but Hootsuite allows me to add several Facebook accounts instead of just one, and I can also manage my LinkedIn account from the same app. It also works better on my Android than the Tweetdeck app, which anyways I already dislike for its interface.

6- Extensive Notes. I may regret to say this later, but I’m not a fan of Evernote. Quoting what I said a year ago, I use my notes application as a modern version of my handy old-fashioned notebook, and it really bothers me when I have to create accounts, log-in or wait until it synchronizes with the computer or “the cloud”. Extensive Notes is really powerful even in its free version, although I recognize the way it organizes folders and notes is a bit too complex.

7- Google Maps + Navigation.I don’t understand why Nokia is the only cell-phone manufacturer that offers a free and trustable off-line GPS navigator app, but at least Android users have this alternative. It doesn’t seem to use lots of Internet and it can help you to get anywhere.