I read two things this morning in praise of closed systems and fêting their future dominance, both by people who should know better. Bob Cringely praises Adobe's Flash, and predicts that AIR will take over the world because Flash can be made to run on cellphones. Clearly, this is wishful thinking on Adobe's part. There is a standard for creating user interfaces that has many orders of magnitude more developers than Flash, is installed on every computer and nearly every cellphone already, and is powerful enough that even Steve Jobs didn't dare to leave it off the iPhone, and that's HTML.Cringely says:
Once you own the interface to every mobile device you can make those devices talk more easily to your networked applications than possibly to those from Apple, Microsoft, or Sun. As we move toward a fully mobile Internet, compliance with mobile APIs will be more important than what operating system is running on the server, which is why I believe Adobe is putting so much effort behind AIR and Flex.
"Owning" interfaces is not something that you can do when there is an existing interface that is simple, powerful and deployed on every device imaginable already. That would be HTTP - Cringely's piece starts by saying how HTML has made it beyond ubiquity to invisibility, but HTTP is so invisible he doesn't even notice that it's there (let alone TCP or UDP).
Marc Andreesson also has a good underlying point about the Valley's short attention span with regard to technologies, but he too ends up praising a closed application model, in this case Facebook's. They provide access to their users under sufferance, and clearly can't provide access to users of otehr social networking sites. For Marc to back a closed system like this when he has built his career on open ones is odd to me. Kottke puts this well:
As it happens, we already have a platform on which anyone can communicate and collaborate with anyone else, individuals and companies can develop applications which can interoperate with one another through open and freely available tools, protocols, and interfaces. It's called the internet and it's more compelling than AOL was in 1994 and Facebook in 2007. Eventually, someone will come along and turn Facebook inside-out, so that instead of custom applications running on a platform in a walled garden, applications run on the internet, out in the open, and people can tie their social network into it if they want, with privacy controls, access levels, and alter-egos galore.
Dave Winer agrees it is time to do this:
Eventually, soon I think, we'll see an explosive unbundling of the services that make up social networks. What was centralized in the form of Facebook, Linked-in, even YouTube, is going to blow up and reconstitute itself.
The thing is , pace Andreesson, we have been working on building a consensus to express these connections in an open way for a few years now. We already have a way to express social networks and personal information online. We have hCard for expressing contact information and authorship, and we have XFN to express social connection. Twitter, Dave's experimental platform, already supports this. Lets continue to spread it further.