I was made hip to an interesting strategy that Google has started around its Orkut social networking property. Given that Facebook is alluring nearly everyone on to its site, Google has decided to protect its network by blocking the export of contacts and other data as people try to migrate their online personas from Orkut to Facebook.
It reeks of the lame lock-in strategies that companies like Salesforce.com employed early on in the SaaS game: once you put your CRM data on our servers…we got you. Good luck accessing it when you leave (or in some instances like for data backup and cross-departmental reporting – ever) .
None of this is new, of course. From cell phone platforms, to IM clients, to applications – the development usually starts in silos, and thus creates problems when users try to do things that span across networks. We have seen these types of issues: I can’t send a video message to someone not on Verizon; I can’t IM with someone on Yahoo! IM when I’m on AIM; I can’t tweet from Facebook etc. – all solved by open standards that usually come after the initial development of the functionality.
Google is acting in retrograde here. Instead of offering a quality experience and the ability to – say – keep your stuff in Orkut but have it appear more freely in other sites like Facebook, it is damaging the openness that the social web promises. Google should realize that ultimately – it is not important to Google where the individuals live online – since Google has a huge opportunity to work with every platform to expand its ad-driven revenue empire.