Walled gardens: A necessary evil

Walled gardens: A necessary evil

Summary: There's a good bit of hubbub about Google News offering comments from story subjects and then walling them off. But is this walled garden approach really all that shocking?


There's a good bit of hubbub about Google News offering comments from story subjects and then walling them off. But is this walled garden approach really all that shocking?

What's shocking is that Google hasn't tried to wall everything off yet. Michael Arrington calls Google News' latest experiment hypocrisy. And he's right. Techmeme has more on the topic.

But walled gardens are a necessary evil in capitalism. Everyone bitches about them yet everyone wants one. Why? It's profitable. We all want walled gardens.

There's a reason Facebook won't let you take your information elsewhere. Ditto for MySpace. Ditto for nearly all social sites. The reason: They want your page views, which they can turn into ad revenue. Allow user information to leave readily and the ad revenue may follow.

And who wouldn't want to run the biggest walled garden of them all--the Apple iPod-iTunes juggernaut.

A stupid saying like: "If you love your users set them free" is easier said than done when money is on the line.

The natural inclination for any company large or small is to grab what it can and if it's lucky become a monopoly. Yes, folks we all want to be Microsoft deep down. Go ahead, admit it.

That's why Google's "don't be evil" slogan was baloney from day one. AOL was lambasted for years, but its walled garden worked--until it didn't. But AOL's walled garden worked well enough to merge with Time Warner before the floor fell out. I'd take that.

Overall, consumers don't necessarily care if they are in a walled garden until the experience stinks. Ask a kid what he thinks about not being able to take his information out of Facebook and you'll get a blank stare. Does the average MySpace user look around and say: "Damn, I'm in a walled garden this just isn't right!" Of course not, he's eyeballing girls and finding his favorite band. That fact works out well for MySpace.

So if you're Facebook why wouldn't you keep a walled garden? Trying something else hurts your valuation yet makes a few talking tech heads happy. Some trade.

Back to Google it's clear that it wants some element of a walled garden and Google News is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Google wants you using its apps, wants you to hop around through its properties and wants your ad profile. So does Yahoo. So does every other Web company out there.

This walled garden thing may become doubly important for Google if time spent becomes the metric of choice over page views.

In the end, the goal is to have a walled garden. That's where the money is.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Google

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  • Wow, We have the real world!

    Finally, a post that's realistic.

    One thing I do find rather annoying is us geeks are always too willing to jump on in and moan about everything, "I cant do this and I want to", "why wont this site let me do that"!?

    Its simple, its business. Sites like MySpace, Facebook, Google, Yahoo etc. etc. all want money, why would they waste their time giving everything away, they need money to continue to develop and grow as a business. In order to do that, they need people to use their services.

    We should be thankful at the amount of stuff we get for free. I use Google Mail and Reader a lot, as well as MS Live (Spaces & Sharedview) I think they are brilliant. They are also free.

    I used to use MySpace, I got fed up with it, I got off it. Simple as that. If you dont like something, dont use it. Dont bitch and moan about getting something for nothing. If you dont want it, dont take it.
  • while we're being so honest...

    Let's just admit that companies that do the walled garden don't really love their users, they love their users' money, pageviews, and so forth. The users themselves aren't worth a damn thing.

    There is a line of thinking that says that companies should exhibit some corporate responsibility and common decency. They should do this voluntarily because they are run by decent human beings with morals and ethics beyond making a buck. But to the extent companies won't police themselves, there is a line of thinking that says the government ought to force them to adhere to minimum standards of decent behavior under pain of fines and lawsuits against the owners, investors and management -- even jail, in extreme cases.

    The American system is not all about making a buck. Far from it. A lot of the Enron crew deserved jail in a big way. There is a big difference between an honorable company that makes a mistake and a company that's engaged in a significant amount of antisocial activity, ranging from the mild form -- holding your data hostage in a walled garden -- to the extreme form of hijacking your pension or worse.

    The walled garden is a mild form of antisocial behavior. Is it bad enough to warrant a law? Maybe. Probably not. But let's not just say it's OK, that it's perfectly legitimate. It's a crappy way to treat your users. It definitely indicates a lack of love, other than the love of money.
    • Hear! Hear!......... well said

      Truer words were never spoken!
      Ole Man
  • you said:

    [i]That?s why Google?s ?don?t be evil? slogan was baloney from day one. AOL was lambasted for years, but its walled garden worked?until it didn?t. But AOL?s walled garden worked well enough to merge with Time Warner before the floor fell out. I?d take that. [/i]

    AOL didn't quite work. It "worked" well enough, while there weren't any real viable alternatives for the techno-phobic. Tech support was always useless.

    As the Internet became more user friendly and continued to explode everywhere, certain parties at TW thought they'd like to try "this internet thing" again. It certainly looked like easy money. Unfortunately, as we now know, a bunch of that was based on lies and false promises. As for the AOL-TW merger, that was sold to an old man who had taken his eye off the ball because of a tragedy in his family. It is clear that he was ill equipped to deal with what he was getting into, and listened to the wrong people.

    Within a relatively short span of time, the good people at TW realized they'd been taken, and the AOL brand was shoved way back, and today is relatively invisible... AOL- TW, wru?

    Bottom line, a lot of people would take that, especially in a society that values money above all else. If you con people out of their money and are smart and slimey enough, you can steal billions and never even get accused. imo, that is essentially what AOL did to TW, it's shareholders and the thousands (tens of?) that were let go when the merger completed.
    • But, other than that one thing, all I can really

      say about this is, well yeah... and your point is what? Everyone wants to make some money and not chasing the dollars out the door is a better approach?

      Brilliant insight :p

      Slow news day?
  • What iPod/iTunes Walled Garden?

    I can take my DRM-free music to any music player, I can play any DRM-free music
    on my iPod. What DRM Apple does have is "honor system" quality.

    iPod/iTunes is successful because it's NOT a walled garden. Microsoft and Sony
    both tried to set up real walled gardens around their software and hardware and fell
    flat on their face.

    Nobody cares about Myspace or Facebook because, well, there's nothing
    individually valuable in there for anyone. Come on, if MySpace went down, what
    would your Myspace user lose?
    • iPod/iTunes Walled Garden

      iPod/iTunes is a Walled Garden because iTunes will only with with one music store and one brand of music player. You cannot purchase from the Apple Store with Windows Media Player. You cannot sync an iRiver MP3 Player using iTunes.

      Walled Gardens have work-arounds for the patient and tech-savvy. As long as it's inconvenient or requires some technical understanding, it will lock in most users. A simple latch on the garden gate is enough.