Data Portability Evangelists Get Out of Line

Over the past 24 to 48 hours I have been watching the discussion manifest over the ongoing battle between Facebook, Google and MySpace over each of their new data portability initiatives. Much of the discussion climaxed on the Gilmor Gang podcast which included Mike Arrington, Robert Scoble, Marc Canter, Chris Saad and Dana Gardner. I would call the majority of the people on the show “data portability evangelists.”

Data portability evangelists have one goal: to control their own data. It makes a lot of sense when you get into the discussion but the logistics behind it are highly complex. So complex that not even the data portability evangelists were able to figure much out during their almost hour and a half long discussion (on the podcast).

Robert Scoble was left all in a tizzy and Mike Arrington proclaimed himself victorious when he was able to convince everybody that he was right without providing much substance for his argument. The podcast clearly illustrated each of the participants’ personalities but little more. After pondering the ongoing discussion for the past 48 hours, I’ve come up with the following thoughts:

True Data Portability Kills Social Network Sites
While I am a fan of data portability, the reality is that true data portability kills social network sites. If we take data portability to the extreme and I was able to export all of my data and contacts from Facebook, Facebook would be nothing more than a well designed communications platform. Perhaps in the end that’s all they will be but for now, their valuations have been based on their skyrocketing user base.

There is no way in hell that Facebook is going to shoot themselves in the foot and completely make our data exportable. It just won’t happen. At least not anytime soon. The data portability evangelists saw the largest players move one step closer to true data portability and now they are crying that Facebook should just take it all the way.

Data Portability Evangelists Can’t Speak Clearly
This is the biggest challenge facing the future of data portability. I listened to the Gillmore Gang podcast last night and read Steve Gillmore’s techcrunch post this morning and it would take at least an hour for me to decode both of them for you. The best way to get your point across is by making a clear argument that anybody can understand. None of the participants do this. Mike Arrington comes close when he says “I am right, you are wrong.”

That’s classic elementary debate tactics but unfortunately he doesn’t back up his argument aside from the fact that he is more than just passionate about owning his data.

We Are Moving Forward
While I want complete control of my data, most people don’t even know what that means. The moves being made by Facebook, MySpace and Google are a huge step forward and it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge that. At the same time the data portability evangelists should continue to ask for more because that’s what’s required of them.

While the debate over data portability is far from over, it’s a good thing that the large players are even listening and making changes. Am I a sucker for being partially satisfied? Mike Arrington would say yes but then again his argument is simply that he’s right, not much more substance there. Also, is it really that surprising that there are only 10 or 20 people that are participating in the discussion on data portability?

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