The Economist sees little future for walled garden social networking sites like Facebook and Second Life if they continue to restrict the flow of content across the Internet. A few years back we had AOL, Compuserve and Prodigy each providing their own subscription-based services, and look what happened to them:
Why stay within a closed community when you can roam outside its walled garden, into the wilds of the internet proper? Admittedly, it took a while for open and standardised forms of e-mail, discussion boards and file downloads—not to mention a new publishing technology called the world wide web—to match the proprietary, closed versions that preceded them. Today only AOL survives, and in a very different form: as an open web portal supported by advertising.
The Economist provides a more detailed analysis of the uncertain business models for social networking sites, which prompted me to wonder over here whether the walled garden approach will serve membership organisations well. I think it is another example of World 1 thinking.