Facebook may have won the social media battle, but what’s the prize?  Bob Cringely predicts a finite shelf-life for Facebook.

[W]hile Facebook is certainly a huge social, cultural, and business phenomenon, I just don’t see it being around for very long.

Facebook is a huge success. You can’t argue with 750 million users and growing. And I don’t see Google+ making a big dent in that.  .  .  .

Each era of computing seems to run for about a decade of total dominance by a given platform.  .  .  .

I give Facebook seven years or until 2014 to peak.

Does this feel wrong to you?  Listen to your gut and I think you’ll agree with me even if we don’t exactly know why.

I’m inclined to agree with him on some level, but I think it’s more of the finite shelf life of the “walled garden.”  Eric Raymond discusses an alternate universe of no Internet as a “world of walled gardens:”

Welcome to a world of walled gardens. Your digital universe is a collection of competing fiefdoms run by CompuServe, AOL, Genie, and later entrants that came into the fray as demand rose, many of them run by big media companies. Each network has its own protocols, its own addressing conventions, and its own rigidly proprietary access software. You get the services they choose to offer and that’s it – there’s no end-to-end, no access to the bitstream.

You can only do the equivalent of email and instant-messaging with people on the same provider you are using. Inter-provider gateways are buggy and often nonexistent – some providers think they add attractiveness to potential customers, others think they can shoulder smaller networks aside by making them relatively inaccessible.

Facebook, like old AOL, lets you leave, and has some interoperability with its instant messaging platforms, but it’s effectively closed.  The Facebook e-mail system is closed to Facebook, and its IM is not entirely open either.  It has an API to allow other software to work with it, but it controls the ecosystem.

Facebook is smart and will probably learn lessons from AOL’s failures, but its hard to see what it can do beyond a certain point.  I think I agree with Bob Cringely, even if I don’t know why.

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