Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Problems with commercial enterprises dominating the 'cloud'

Did you notice the last couple of weeks that things are changing with those nifty cool Web2.0 and social media applications that not so long ago were a novelty and made lots of waves in the learning technology field? Yes, exactly, first Delicious was not interesting anymore to Yahoo, then last week Google decided to stop their Google video service, now this week Friendster tells us to save our files.

 In the case of Delicious, after a public outcry, they have reversed their decision. Google is after widespread protests looking into moving the videos to YouTube, while they re-instated the position of their RSS reader, Google Reader, in their navigation to its original position after protests by RSS aggregators when they moved it.

What can we conclude from this? Clearly, the web-surfers and users are not the customers of these commercial enterprises; their advertisers and share-holders are, the behavior of users are merely the by-product of the money-making enterprise, required to produce the 'social graph' needed for advertisers to sell their stuff. Any application that is not profitable will be disconnected, how successful it might be in supporting people's lives and learning.

Another important point to draw from this is that we as users can collectively influence the behavior of the new Web monopolies to ensure that the services important to us are not cut just like that. These companies have to understand that we can walk with our feet and that they will have to perhaps provide some services that are vital to the lives of users at a loss to on the other hand make lots of money in other ones, very much like commercial bus or postal service operators are required by governements to run not such profitable routes in order to provide a balanced service. Of course there is no global government to take on these companies, bar perhaps the European Union who is not afraid to fine the Microsoft, Apple or Google of this world if they breach monopoly laws.

The final point I would like to make is that it might be time for new public services to safeguard what is vital for education and tp people's learning. We have public libraries, why not public search engines, as was suggested by White. These would not be guided by commercial interests, but would be available to safeguard our social and cultural heritage.  It is clear that the way the Cloud is ruled does nothing to ensure that what is important to its users is maintained, rather it is like everywhere else in the world, it is greed that makes the Cloud go round.