The new walled garden.

Mathew Ingram comments that even with the new Facebook platform, Facebook is somewhat of a walled garden, intended to keep users inside:

There’s no question that Facebook is the hottest thing going in social networking right now, and the launch of the Facebook F8 Platform has made it even more important as a model of what is possible for such a network. At the same time, however, I think that there’s also a troubling element to the site, which is that Facebook is to some extent a walled garden. Dave Winer writes about it here, Jon Udell hints at it here, and so does Dabble DB co-founder Avi Bryant here. Others have also written about the same kinds of issues here, here and here.

I’ve written a couple of desktop Facebook applications, and the Facebook platform actually forces you to pop up a browser window to log in to Facebook, as opposed to providing an API call to do the same thing. In their developer forums they claim that this is done to protect users in case rogue applications pass their passwords over the internet in clear text. They fail to note that those same users would have to provide their passwords to those rogue applications. This is merely an ugly implementation to force users to stay within the walls of Facebook.

The web is great, but I use desktop applications for things like email, IM, and updating Twitter because I find them more convenient. Ignoring the potential benefit to users merely to lock them into your world may be wonderful in the short term, but when people get bored with Facebook, as they inevitably will, just shows a lack of concern for the user.

Whatever the goal of Facebook, if they have no intention of properly supporting desktop applications outside of Facebook then they should stop adverting that and just admit that they want to keep users inside of Facebook. And really, what kind of platform doesn’t allow you to do something simple like update your status?

The Facebook platform lets you do a couple things like query data and display it nicely within Facebook. It really doesn’t let you do a lot more than that.


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