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Vint Cerf warns Facebook against walled gardens

In danger of turning into AOL
Thu Sep 22 2011, 14:56

THE GODFATHER OF THE INTERNET Vint Cerf has warned social networking web site and people database Facebook against shutting itself off from the rest of the internet.

In a speech given at an event arranged by the Guardian newspaper he warned the firm that it was running the risk of turning into an IBM, no real problem, or an AOL, oh. Ouch.

Cerf is now Google's chief internet evangelist, and of course Google has its own social network Google+. Presumably then he just has a passing interest in Facebook but much more of an interest in keeping the internet open. Something that he does not think is high on the Facebook agenda.

The people catalogue is in danger of becoming an AOL, according to Cerf, because it insists on using a closed architecture and prevents its users from taking their details and accounts from one web site to the other.

Perhaps the most shocking thing though, to technologists at least, is the AOL comparison. That firm created a drink coaster industry thanks to its ubiquitous CD-ROM discs, but locked users into proprietary systems. Facebook, which is nearing an IPO, might not enjoy being compared to a company that fell from popularity so quickly, but Cerf didn't mind, and nor do we.

AOL "persisted for quite a while until the users of AOL forced it to be made accessible to the internet," said Cerf, as he added, "Facebook was becoming that way". He warned that users could soon start to prefer connecting with other web sites, as opposed to just others within Facebook.

Cerf uses Facebook, but perhaps not very often. He said that he was unhappy that the firm had begun blocking friend requests, suggesting that he is open to making new friends, and he added that he was "mortally insulted" when it started happening. µ


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