Joho the BlogIf Mark Zuckerberg invented the Web - Joho the Blog

If Mark Zuckerberg invented the Web

Imagine an alternative universe in which Mark Zuckerberg is born before Tim Berners-Lee, and invents the Web.

  • Mark Zuckerberg forms a company and develops the Web as a commercial enterprise.

  • MZ owns and controls the HTML standard. Nothing changes in it unless MZ thinks it’s a good idea.

  • MZ owns and controls the client — MZ Explorer — that uses that standard. While other apps are permitted API access, the browser is whatever MZ decides to give us.

  • Users can only create pages on MZ’s server, subject to MZ’s content policies.

  • MZ decides how much about the author of each page is automatically disclosed, and he changes his mind every few months.

  • There is no “View Source” so users can easily figure out how to become developers.

  • Innovators’ creations are limited to the API access that MZ allows and are subject to the changes in policy and pricing structures that MZ decides on.

  • Users have no systematic, assured way of transferring out of the Web all of the pages they’ve created within it. Do they even own the pages they’ve created?

  • If the right deal is struck, the Web could be sold to a media company at any moment.

This alternative history writes its own ending: The Web would be a boring, small, and of little consequence. The real Web unleashed a world-changing renaissance because a modest researcher at a physics lab gave it to us as a gift — open and free.

The Web knows how pages are connected. Social networking sites know how people are connected. Both are obviously crucial. But, Facebook, for all its success, is not living up to the potential for social networking sites, not by a long shot. The social networking site that will do for the connections among people what the Web has done for the connections among sites is awaiting its own Tim Berners-Lee — a person or group that understands that control constrains, but gifts liberate.

40 Responses to “If Mark Zuckerberg invented the Web”

  1. I’d love to debate you on this sometime.

    I don’t think the MZ approach is right, but I think there have been a lot of pitfalls in the way the web has evolved. And gifting your tech isn’t a panacea. You end up with exploits like Feedburner.

    We need to strike some kind of balance, some of the stuff Zuckerberg is doing is good. The megalomania isn’t. And the web is stuck and to get unstuck is going to involve dislodging some big companies who don’t want to be dislodged.

  2. Dave, not all tech needs to be free (in both senses), but the most basic platforms do. I think. The social platform is as important as the linked pages platform, so I think the best course would be (would have been?) to develop and accept open protocols on top of which for-profits and non-profits can build.

    Does that clarification remove some of the apparent differences between us on this?

  3. That happened. It was called AOL and the open competition from the real web put it out of business.

  4. Alternate universe? AOL, MSN, Compuserve, MCI
    Been there, done that….

  5. David, I’m not sure if I get you right, but it seems your thoughts are so close to mine. You know what do I dream about? About creation of the distributed and open system for social networks. From the protocol/standards point of view a lot has been done (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Social), but there is still not enough momentum to create products that could finaly OPEN social networking and break out of siloses like FaceBook.

    The person represenattion and the representation of their network is also at hand (FOAF).

    What is my vision, is the creation of SN server, that can be installed as we did in the past with mail servers. See, we communicate over mail, but there is no single silos like facebook — and we take it (such model) for granted. Why we don’t for social networks ?
    The current technology, webservices, nascent semantic web, APIs etc — all these components are there already — so why not ?

    I guess when I go to venture capitalists to fund my dream — I will ask you for support — would you agree :-)

    Cheers

  6. Mirek, I agree with the vision. Implementation is a different matter :)

  7. Do you mean, the implementation could be as MZ did with FaceBook, but still could be open & free?

    Maybe — but to me the distribution of SN over public internet is the only guarantee of non-silos-like approach — and the ultimate guarantee of its openness and freedom.

    Unfortunately, after Google dominated search, all known trends are like them — such was also MZ’s Facebook.

    We need to go back to roots – to SENDMAIL times !!!
    :-)

  8. Mirek, I know that you won’t go the MZ route. I meant that while I agree with your overall vision, the details of it will determine if it succeeds. That is, I’m not saying anything you don’t already well know.

  9. you have many points, David, except that no open source project has invented Facebook, so the opposite post could also be written about the failure of open initiatives to invent Facebook…

  10. Right, whereas there were many attempts to do commercial e-publishing projects before the Web. (I worked at one.) The question is why we failed to create an open social network … and what we can do now to create one.

  11. Loic,

    Open source community did not invent global search as well – no one can question Google excellency when it comes to search. By the same token, no one questions FaceBook achievement when it comes to global social network. Before, no one could question Bill Gates wizardry when it comes to personal computing standards….

    My guess is that some NEEDS are born faster than the MEANS to realize them.

    Seven years after “google” became the verb — no one really knows how to create open search system. And we do not see too much attempts…

    In case of SN, however, we know how to create it — yet it seems that it will take some time until SN will be as open and free as email was in the beginning….

    All these facts, should not stop us from the pursuit to create a true, open and free and democratic social network system ….

  12. The point I think I’m failing to make (or I’m making it and people just disagree with it) is that social networking is different from applications like search. It is a platform (or a layer of the infrastructure) on a par with the Web itself: The Web connects pages, and social networks connect people. Because of that, it has a special role and special importance.

  13. […] Weinberger weighs in on Facebook’s privacy issues, imagining what a Zuckerberg-invented web (Zuckerweb?) might […]

  14. If this had happened, Gopher would have kept on expanding and developing instead of being largely abandoned by its core development base.

    There was no single “the web” back in the day; just look up the history of Hyper-G, a hypertext system that never made it out of TU-Graz. “A sophisticated hierarchical access control scheme built into the link server supports
    the restriction of access to individual documents and collections to certain groups of users” says their paper; you could built a facebook out of that.

  15. Fundamentaly, I agree that importance (and the danger — if continues like today ) of the SN is much higher than that of the Search.

    To put it differently — Google is less dangerous than FaceBook. I do not mean, of course, that Mark is some devilish figure — he is probably as angelic as Sergey & Larry — but as a phenomenon — the current shape of SN is just more troubling than the current shape of search.

    I only hope, that when Web 3.0 comes, it will not come in a form of some “OntoBook” — one single powerful place for all ontologies and rules of automated reasoning ruled by one single Swoogle (not a kick at exisiting Swoogle ).

    However, belive me or not — I already heard from some Semantic ciricles, that such a service would push Web 3.0 forward… Honestly — I prefer not to have such semantic web, or wait longer.

    What gives me hope, however, is what I already wrote here: We know how to make SN open & free.

    Edward — of course there was no single “the web” in 1989 and following few years. We had dns, email, gopher, ftp and http. All of them shared the fundamantaly different principle — that of decentralization and openness. This is what makes today’s SN so strange….

    But, “the search” is my concern as well…. :-)

  16. This sounds like AOL. We all know how well that turned out.

  17. amen

  18. […] David Weinberger & Dave Winer discussed this weekend “What if Zuck invented the web?”. […]

  19. Some of this points may apply to a Web created by Steve Jobs or at least to the view of the web that you get on an iPad.

  20. […] been coming from very select members of the digerati; Wired, Gizmodo, danah boyd, Jeff Jarvis, and David Weinberger have all joined in. They seem to be playing to an enthusiastic crowd. But why now, when […]

  21. […] As David Weinberger put it: The social networking site that will do for the connections among people what the Web has done for the connections among sites is awaiting its own Tim Berners-Lee. […]

  22. Curious that nobody has mentioned Diaspora yet in this thread…

  23. […] een van de auteurs van de Cluetrain Manifesto. Die in een recente posting een fantastische vergelijking trekt tussen Tim Berners-Lee en Mark Zuckerberg onder de titel: If Mark Zuckerberg invented the Web. Een posting die ik hieronder integraal plaats, […]

  24. Joho the Blog » If Mark Zuckerberg invented the Web…

    Joho the Blog » If Mark Zuckerberg invented the Web…

  25. […] Weinberger asks a thought-provoking question on his […]

  26. […] If Mark Zuckerberg invented the Web- Joho the Blog, May 15, 2010 […]

  27. @Mirek, @David: The future is now. http://joindiaspora.org.

    “David, I’m not sure if I get you right, but it seems your thoughts are so close to mine. You know what do I dream about? About creation of the distributed and open system for social networks. From the protocol/standards point of view a lot has been done (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Social), but there is still not enough momentum to create products that could finaly OPEN social networking and break out of siloses like FaceBook. “

  28. […] David Weinberger imagines an alternative universe in which Mark Zuckerberg is born before Tim Berner… […]

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  33. […] David Weinberger imagines an alternative universe in which Mark Zuckerberg is born before Tim Berner… […]

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