9 August 2012

Remember AOL Keywords?

Anyone remember “Go to AOL Keyword: Ford”?

I try to avoid blowing the buddycloud trumpet (pssst: we’re building an open federated/distributed social network) each time there is a future-of-twitter post on hackernews. I can’t hold back this time.

Twitter works in the same way the old AOL client did: you accessed some message boards and stock prices and film websites using AOL keywords. Marketers flocked to AOL to put up the latest movie premier website.

At the same time there was the small techno-elite downloading Mosaic 0.98 over their 28.8Kbps SLIP connection and starting to experiment with the “world wide web”. In comparison with the closed systems like Compuserve and AOL, the open web took much longer to evolve because everybody was working on different parts without any central coordination.

It was this lack of central coordination that brought us the more robust world wide web system and I don’t think that any of us would argue for a world where AOL is the gold standard of finding, hosting and accessing content.

Twitter is pushing hard to be the gold standard of messaging in the same way that AOL did. And marketers are flocking to work with Twitter along with newscasters giving out hashtags and @twitter-names.

But, in the backrooms and basements and hackerspaces of the internet, today’s equivalent of Mosaic downloaders are experimenting with open, distributed social networks like buddycloud.

The buddycloud team and everyone who attends our hackathons is working to build the post-Twitter future just like Netscape helped launch the open web.

The future will not be built around one company, but a couple of companies like buddycloud that help nudge an open future forward. The future will be protocol based (everyone agrees on a common way to communicate) rather than homesteading on another company’s API for fear of API key revocation.

To move away from Twitter, we must think bigger: a giant network like email where everyone can run their own servers and they all interconnect.

We’re trying to solve some of these problems on the buddycloud wiki. And props to the buddycloud team, I think they are doing a great job. I’ll go back to biting my tongue on each new future-of-twitter post.

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