"Openness" is one of the hallmarks of web 2.0. But is the Brave New World of mash-ups going to close up as quickly as it opened?
Classifieds aggregator Oodle reported over the weekend that Craigslist has banned Oodle from aggregating its listings. The interesting, even passionate comments show this is a major move that could have consequences on how, and why data are shared and distributed between internet companies.
And now come reports that eBay has modified its policies to force PayPal to be the only payments processor for eBay users; the assumption is that this is a move to facilitate blocking any move by Google into this area. (salient quote: the "other business interests" of any payment processor will be evaluated by eBay before being allowed. Indeed!)
Is this the start of a trend? Of course, eBay and Craigslist are not the first to expose this key digital faultline of the Internet. Google’s News channel consists
entirely of screen scraping data off newspaper websites; yet it
strictly forbids anyone from screen scraping its own News site!
In the early days, when all is new and in beta and people are blind by the tech-love of seeing innovative stuff, these issues are for the most part ignored. But as we start to see sizable traffic and revenue patterns fluctuate, many existing players might feel that being "open" is rather little more than an invitation for a competitor to steal their lunch.
In any case, it’s interesting to see two major players who have built their businesses on the basis of a community-friendly, even hippy and anti-corporate image, would so openly appear to be circling the wagons in such a business-minded reflexive way.
I can’t blame existing players for wanting to protect their turf, and sometimes it’s a delicate task to identify a partner from a competitor. But this behaviour does seem very much motivated by self-preservation rather than by the needs of consumers, which long-term probably defeats the original point of self-preservation. And surely the needs of consumers will be better met by openness than by closed systems.
More interesting opinion on this issue on the Clipperz blog.
closing thought: a blog entry I read a few weeks ago predicted this was possibly going to happen because there was no business model, or even basic transaction model for shared and mashed-up data on the web. So in a world where the map comes from Google, the auction data from eBay, population data from the Census bureau, and wish lists from 43Places, how is revenue divided if the resulting application is a revenue-generating one? Maddeningly, I can’t find this post anymore :(
UPDATE: A reader has pointed me to the post I was looking for about the broken transaction model. It’s a great read, and I think holds the key to cracking this emerging dilemma. Funny how in the end the best search engine of all was still the human kind!
UPDATE2: Well, the proof is in the traffic. I’ve been "Memeorandumed", no doubt thanks to Om’s kind words. The sudden surge of visits prove to me that Memeorandum is establishing some seriously influence in directing people to the ongoing conversations of the web.