Google: Facebook is becoming "a closed walled garden"

Google: Facebook is becoming "a closed walled garden"

Summary: A Google executive believes that Facebook is becoming "a closed walled garden" and will soon end up like AOL and IBM: it will have to completely change its business in order to survive.


Vint Cerf, Google's chief internet evangelist and the designer of TCP/IP, warns that Facebook's "closed" architecture means the company will eventually fail to keep up with the public's desire for the flexibility of an open standard. Speaking at an event organized by The Guardian, Cerf said that Facebook was at risk of following the path of companies such as AOL and IBM, suggesting the social networking giant has no long-term future.

His comments come in the same week that Google released Google+ as a public beta. Also this week, Facebook released its updated News Feed, the Ticker, and hosted its f8 developer conference where it announced a new Timeline feature to replace the current profile.

Cerf said AOL began in the 1980s as "a walled garden model" that "persisted for quite a while until the users of AOL forced it to be made accessible to the internet" – the company's original business model of providing its own version of the Internet became irrelevant and it had to transition into an online publisher. He also noted IBM's proprietary networking systems were rendered obsolete after it was forced to adopt Internet technology for its computers because "users didn't want to be locked in" to one brand of hardware.

Facebook is becoming "a closed walled garden" and its problem is that the "ability to connect to people inside the walled garden" will be overwhelmed by "a desire to interconnect" to other social networks and websites, according to Cerf. If Palo Alto is going to reach such a point, it's not happening anytime soon. The company recently passed 800 million active users and is expected to make $4 billion in revenue this year.

The Google executive is likely referring to Facebook's insistence on not letting any other service access its data, which the search giant is particularly annoyed by. The social networking giant, meanwhile, is slowly getting better at sharing with others: it recently started supporting microformats for your exported Facebook data and plans on pushing out official Twitter support soon.

Cerf uses Facebook, but notes he was "mortally insulted" unhappy when the social network began blocking friend requests because he had too many friends. After complaining to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, he was allowed to increase the number of his friends, but this left him overwhelmed with information about "what these friends were doing" – news he conceded "I couldn't care about." Cerf's solution was of course to use Google+ and its Circles feature, which he argues gives people more control over who they share news and personal information with.

Facebook and Google have a complicated history, but recently their disagreement has become much more heated. The two Internet giants are essentially fighting a social war, one in which the only clear winner is the consumer.

See also:

Topics: Google, Browser, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    Google is so full of $hit. Walled standards...those phrases are meaningless rhetoric. I think people, even techies are no longer responding to the lie.
    • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

      @CowLauncher That was a pretty pointless, venomous and inaccurate post.

      He actually makes quite a good point, even though his motives are purely commercial.

      FB *IS* trying to be a one-stop shop, aping every other service going; while Google appraoch is to tout its own wares, but ultimately leave you the choice. I use some Google services, and love 'em; others I can live without - but that doesn't matter to Google, whereas FB tries to manipulate members into sharing everything, including their toenail clippings. It's an inward looking model, just like early AOL, Compuserve and others. It'll work for a good while, but unless they can keep up with every development, in every area of the Internet, people will start to bust out. Just like AOL, Compuserve.

      All-in holiday camps are great for kids - I'm guessing you are one - but as you mature, you'll find that *choice* is much more important. Or not; we're all different.
      • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

        @Heenan73 Give me a break. Google wants to give you choice? No more so than Facebook. It is not liker AOL AT ALL. AOL had "keywords" that would lead to AOL articles. Facebook has links that lead you to any site you wantto go...just like Google.

        And even if it WAS the walled garden...who cares? If that is what people want, then they will use it.

        Only an idiot (are you included?) think that the walled garden approach is why AOL failed. The truth is, if AOL had partnered with cable companies to jump on the broadband bandwagon early on, AOL would still be by far the number one ISP. Broadband and cheap $8 local dial up ISPs were what killed AOL. Nothing else.
  • And they said that with a straight face?

    Google has redefined both closed-walled gardens and open source. Patents are bad unless owned by Google, locking up source code is bad unless done by Google. Meh.
    Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

      @facebook@... Twaddle. You're making it up as you go along.
      • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

        Apparently, so are you . . . .
      • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

        @Heenan73 It is clear that Heehan has pictures of Sergey and LArry next to his twin bed. And every night he takes them out...alone as usual...along with the tissues and KY.

        Google is EXACTLY what the OP said. They only whined like little bitches about patents after they were unable to buy a whole bunch. They are ON RECORD with telling someone "If you don't play ball with us, we are going to scrape your site from our search results completely"

        And that is the company whose founders you masturbate to every night.
    • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

      @facebook@... I agree - Google is throwing stones from a glass house.
  • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    I am leaving facebook due to the new up dates and the total lack of privacy it now has. I do not want to know or see posts, status updates and pictures and the comments added to them from people not on my friends list just because one of my friends has chosen to like or comment on these. What is even more disturbing is as soon as i can see these posts not only do i see that MY friend has liked it or commented on it but i can also see every single comment added to that post/status/photo by their i get to see lots of different people I DONT KNOW I also have two teenagers who use facebook who i am asking to open google + accounts as well as myself because i worry about their safety. Facebook may think its moving with the times but no one wants to know EVERYTHING their friends are doing and we dont want it thrown into our face in big print on the so call new NEWS FEED either. That was the last straw for me and for ALOT of my friends on my list too. They say we all make complaints when ever there is any changes. Well yes we may not like all the changes and we may have put up with them in the past and got used to them but i will never get used to having strangers status updates and posts plastered over my feed and in my face. We have a FRIENDS LIST for a reason. I am soon to be gone once i have transferred all my photo albums over, alot of my friends have also joined google + too and they were the only reason i log in. Not because of the new high tech idea Facebook could offer. Facebook didnt have competition before, there was no where else for us to go...but THERE IS NOW
    • FB Privacy model Sux

      You are exactly right. The FB Privacy model seems like it was architected by someone in middle skool. What little control they provide is far too inadequate.

      The problem for Google+ is that FB owns the install base. Even if you decide to leave to join G+, there is no guarentee that all your family and friends will follow. So you could end up sitting in this shiny new Social Place all alone. It will require a Coordinated Exodus.
  • He has a point.

    ...despite coming from an obvious and inherently biased position, the parallels with AOL _are_ there to be seen.
    Jeremy Gooch
  • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    I had a look at the "new" Facebook this morning and found that the real chronological "news" is in a little scolling window on the right of the screen. The big stuff in the middle is out of order, and much of it was too old to be usable.

    But that little scrolling window on the right -- if you hover over an item with its two-line description, you get a nice pop-up with the full information! Even nicer than the old "news feed" that you got if you selected "Recent Posts" rather than taking the dumb default selection. The new scrolling box with the pop ups gives all the details.

    The problem is that when Facebook moves something to the right, it seems to sooner or later disappear. Like the "Recent News" in the middle, now at the right. Soon it will be gone.

    It took me one click to sign up for Google+ (I have a gmail address that I don't use). I couldn't find anyone I know there, but when they arrive, they can find me. When critical mass is reached, goodbye Facebook.
  • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    There is a viable alternative to Facebook for people who really value their privacy and want to connect in private with the people who matter in their lives: -- it is an ethical company that does not monetize private information. We are strictly supported by members.
  • is the private alternative to Facebook --

    here is a viable alternative to Facebook for people who really value their privacy and want to connect in private with the people who matter in their lives: -- it is an ethical company that does not monetize private information. We are a grassroots company, strictly supported by members.
  • Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    Google + Sucks and doesnt even exist in the South Pacific as always says overloaded so Google + no competition at all so I guess Facebook realize that and do what they want to
  • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    Google + sucks as not avaliable worldwide so no competition.
    Yes Facebook is always changing things around to try and confuse you. You have a job tracking items posted. They change things then in different place.
  • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    Big Brother Google knows what's best for you.

    Delete your Facebook account now and sign up for Google+.
  • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    Google is just jealous because that is what THEY were trying to be.
  • Google and Facebook are one BS

    Both Google and Facebook are "user farms" All they care about it is to have as many users as possible. The difference is Google goes after "hits" (CPM) because company formerly known as a search engine has become one huge ad network; the other, goes after your connections/recommendations and time you spend on FB, because this is how they grow and plan to earn billions. The rest is PR and BS for those who want to listen
  • RE: Google: Facebook is becoming 'a closed walled garden'

    I dont know if jkfan87 is just a clown or both a clown and an idiot. I guarantee everyone here, he or she (we'll I guess we all know its a he), has based his arguments on the wrong assumptions, in almost every case. You can this foremost in his statement: "..if that is what people want then they will use it.." Wow. This could literally be the worst logic in history. You really can see his imbecility in that sentence. FB calls all the shots in your life, jk. We all know you are surreptitiously using google (products), in your everyday life. If you say you dont, youre a liar as well. Proof: You???re using google search, now, to look up the definition of surreptitious. The others who decry google, above, arent quite as bad - as the aforementioned clown - I'll just say theyre a bit naive or ignorant; but that can be overcome. Heenan73 has got it right. Google ultimately tries to manipulate the end-user into using its products. So what. As Heenan73 says, they still give you a lot of choice, to switch to a competitor???s product, in nearly every case, with relative ease; and their own non-corp product options are free. FB users: They have already sold your info to Corp America and they will eventually directly charge you once they are assured that you have little choice but to stay on board, with them (either when there are no viable alternatives, or when it becomes cost prohibitive for you to make the switch). There are inklings that this "direct" usage charge is coming soon. Those who use FB have been bamboozled and herded, like sheep, into a corner. FB should be called Sheepbook or ClonerBook