American in Spain

The Private Internet

September 6, 2010

Remember back in 1995, when companies didn't advertise their internet urls so much, but their AOL keywords. "Find us online with AOL keyword 'fluffy anvils'!" The reason this worked is that so many people connected to the internet via AOL that some people never even ventured out into the world wide web, but kept their entire online experience confined to AOL's private servers. Corporations had, and I presume paid handsomely for, their own AOL pages. Today we're starting to see migration back to the same proprietary internet experience with Facebook. Corporations are falling over themselves now trying to get their consumers to visit their Facebook page. Just like marketing materials in the mid-90's gave their url and an AOL keyword, now there's a url and Facebook page address.

Facebook is very aware of this. In fact it's been a goal of theirs for some time now to create a private alternate version of the internet on only their servers. This net domination objective is probably the main reason they have rejected several lucrative offers to buy them out.

Coca-cola's homepage

This is the homepage at at the time of this writing.

Personally I'm not sure how I feel about this trend. On the one hand, I can definitely see the appeal of the simple, clean, consistent design, and I know from firsthand experience how easy it is to burn away hours inside Facebook's minimally gated community. On the other hand, it's never a good idea to give too much power to one corporation. There are plenty of articles about Facebook creating an "alternative internet" or "second internet". I just wrote this post because I have not yet seen anyone drawing parallels to the America Online of yesteryear.

The ironic wordplay of the title being, of course, that Facebook's biggest critics complain about privacy, and yet a privately controlled internet is exactly what they are constructing.