Jonathan Zittrain, a Professor of Internet Governance and Regulations, at Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, has just posted an interesting piece on the dangers of Facebook. This isn’t your typical piece about the woes of information security but instead how application development on sites like Facebook are really hurting the future of software development.
Jonathan writes how many young developers are moving away from creating code and programs that run on stand alone computes and developing widgets or web applications. We all know the value of a good widget and the inherent value of combining them with social networks. But have we thought about the consequences.
Think about it like this: You create an application that somehow connects people over the internet and their cell phone. This application uses Facebook as a springboard to launch your widget on a computer. For some reason Facebook feels your program takes away from their market share and they shut you down.
All of your work, all of your contacts, all of the connections you have made are now completely locked up with no way of retrieving them. Your application, with all of its functionality and purpose, is at the mercy of a large corporation that you have no real connection with.
What if Facebook suddenly closed their doors and said ‘No More Apps!” I am just as certain as you that Facebook would crumble, but you see the point don’t you. All of your development, marketing and connections are at the mercy of a privately held company and they can do what they want.
As social platforms continue to change developers and application users are going to have to find a way to balance their wants and needs with the simple fact that all of their efforts fall under the control of a company that can change the rules as it goes along.
Is anyone else out there worried that our development efforts are actually in the hands of people that we have little to know interaction with? I know big brother is a representation of the government, but I think the headline drives the point home. Who really is in control of your applications?