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?

Censorship to protect the domestic digital industry?

I believe in the open Internet, and I always think that what countries do when blocking services like Facebook or Google is just another form of censorship, a way to block information coming from outside that could put in danger the Government’s image or power.

But I have to recognize that I never looked at the issue from the point of view pointed out in this article from Al Jazeera (emphasis added):

Much as a nation would try to protect its domestic industries and allow them time to grow by applying import tariffs on foreign goods, China has grown a massive internet industry by protecting its industry from outside competition. Whether that ‘protectionism’ was outright like blocking Google, or making its domestic providers load faster for China’s web surfers – it is effective. Baidu, Ren Ren and Sina Weibo are Chinese success stories – with each of them publicly listed on American stock exchanges and garnering much attention.

I come from Spain, one of those countries where Google’s Search Engine has more than 90% of the market share with no local alternative known of, although we do have a powerful player in the social media game (Tuenti). So I can see the point on protecting the domestic market, both because I would like to see Spain playing an important role in the digital stage and because the unemployment rate is reaching 26%. A company like Google, Baidu, Facebook or Tuenti is great for any national economy.

Don’t missunderstand me, I’m really glad I had Google and Facebook and totally against any kind of blockage, but if you think about it China is just one official declaration away from opening its borders to Google and Facebook and allow real market competition, while the rests of the countries are now decades away from developing the industry able to compete with the big foreing corporations.

¿Cómo viaja el correo electrónico de una cuenta a otra?

En su página sobre sus esfuerzos medioambientales, Google ha lanzado un curioso vídeo sobre cómo “vuelan” los correos electrónicos desde que le damos al botón de enviar hasta que otra persona lo recibe: the Story of Send. Además, la misma historia está disponible en una versión web interactiva. No es que la explicación aporte mucho, pero sí resulta interesante ver cómo Google presenta sus propios servicios al consumidor final, ese que no entiende nada de tecnología ni códigos de programación pero que usa el correo electrónico a diario.

Eso sí, la explicación se “olvida” completamente de contarnos en qué momento Google lee nuestros correos electrónicos para saber de lo que estamos hablando y mostrar en la web de Gmail publicidad de Adwords relacionada con nuestras conversaciones privadas. Personalmente, creo que es un paso bastante interesante del proceso…

The evolution of search: present history, by Google

The following video, posted by Google, it’s a quick view to the history of web search, from the very begining of just looking for a website to search engines that can use images as inputs for the search or start searching before you finish typing. It’s unbelievable how fast the web grows and changes, and how easily we get use the improvements: the video shows some of the milestones of Google, those little changes that we couldn’t live without right now. Can anyone imagine how would it be to not have image searches? Or searching without the automatic currency rate change and the automatic conversion to different measuring systems?