The war over who is going to be our main data silo has been brewing for a while and I think we are going to see it come closer to an end game in 2009. MySpace, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo have been jockeying for position to some extent over the last few years to become your home base for all things on the web. (Well minus breastfeeding pictures of course.) The two places that you can really see this battle play out is within the two major social networking sites.
Both MySpace and Facebook have made changes to their platform to improve their photo sharing, introduce applications, and change their layouts. Another interesting change that both have quietly made over the last year or so is that it is increasingly easier to remove your content. One of the biggest criticisms that both social networking behemoths faced was that the actions it took to delete any of your personal content from the site on a mass scale was nearly impossible. The thought behind that was if it was discouraging to remove or move your content that you would just feel resigned to keep it. Along with these features there is another major shift on the horizon. It has long been rumored that both platforms will be rolling out a webmail service to their networks, with MySpace taking the early lead.
Beyond what they have been doing on their platforms though is where the real interesting things are taking place. You have the jostling over OpenID and Facebook Connect as to what is going to be your sign on of choice. Then you have the question of Data Portability, which again has these sites split into different camps. (And personally is it just me or has Data Portability really lost steam?) There still is a lot to be played out here that impacts end users and how they sign on, find friends, and manage their data.
2008 was the year of aggregation, they years of the activity feed becoming the popular feature. Friendfeed, widgets like the one produced by Blog Catalog, the growth of Facebook, and the integration of aggregation on different services all led to explosive growth. While aggregation is nice the real next step is having one communication hub for everything, not having to log into multiple places to exchange messages and interact is the next major transition.
Power.com tried to aggregate your messaging all in one place and was quickly met by lawsuits from MySpace and Facebook. Both companies stated that they had to shut it down was because what Power was doing was against their terms of service. But in reality it is because both companies use a walled garden mentality, they want to keep you and your data locked in. It is kind of funny that it is going to be all right for them to bring in your e-mail but the other way around is totally off limits. I understand the reasoning behind it and the potential lost revenues but the lack of balance entertains me on a disturbing level. Sure they have opened up slightly by providing a limited API to application developers these platforms want a one sided relationship where they are giving out crumbs and developers are handing them back entire cookies for their members to enjoy.
In the end these relationships with developers, with end users, and with other companies looking to do something different is leaning heavily towards these large companies. Are we that far away from a large percentage of the internet using population being forced to choose sides in order to have convenient features? Or is it a lot of worry, like the now hilarious notion that AOL is taking over the web? 2009 is going to provide is going to give us the answers to these questions.