Walled Garden

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Synonym for 'closed' approaches, whereby customers only have access to a particular service, cannot access outside services through itt, cannot export their data, and no outside applications can be built. The opposite are sometimes called Open Plain approaches.


From the W3C Social Web Incubator Group‎:

"The importance of the Web has always been its open and distributed nature as a universal space of information. Until recently this space of information has been limited to hypertext web-pages without attention being paid to social interactions and relationships. This was not a particular fault of the Web, in fact but a result of a certain focus of the early Web on documents. However, these kinds of activities are currently restricted to particular social networking sites, where the identity of a user and their data can easily be entered, but only accessed and manipulated via proprietary interfaces, so creating a "wall" around connections and personal data, as illustrated in the picture below. This current dismal situation is analogous to the early days of hypertext before the World Wide Web, where various systems stored hypertext in proprietary and incompatible formats without the ability to use, globally link and access hypertext data across systems, a situation solved by the creation of URIs and HTML. A truly universal, open, and distributed Social Web architecture is needed.

The lack of such an architecture deeply impacts the everyday experience of the Web of many users. There are four major problems experienced by the end user:

1. Portability An ordinary user can not download their own data and share it how they like. Information stored on social networks could be useful for any number of applications, but the lack of portability of tediously entered social networking information causes users to continually re-enter and update their personal information, wasting their time.

2. Identity: Not having a easy way to manage digital identity across digital networks leads to unsafe re-usage of passwords. Every time a user goes to a new site, they must not only create a new username and password, but re-find their friends and entice friends to move sites with them. Porting personal data from one network to another does not solve the problem of loosing one's friends if one moves.

3. Linkability: Users have no way of being notified if they are being mentioned on a social networking site which they are not a member of. For example, if someone takes a photo of some friends at a party and wishes to publish it on the Web to share with those friends, but does not wish to make that publicly available, he must find a social network where each one of them is already a member, or simply not tell people that the photo has been uploaded.

4. Privacy: A user cannot control how their information is viewed by others in different contexts by different social applications even on the same social networking site, which raises privacy concerns. Privacy means giving people control over their data, empowering people to they can communicate the way they want. This control is lacking if configuring data sharing is effectively impossible or data disclosure by others about oneself cannot be prevented or undone.

Participation is the life blood of social networks. If no one (or if too few people) participates, a social networking application dies. If social applications are to thrive and provide engaging and valuable services to users, they must be easy-to-use, and must support ways for people to connect with and manage their social interactions and connections across multiple sites. While we take a "user-centric" approach in this report, having a common set of Social Web standards is a "win-win" proposition for both industry and users. As portability issues prevent companies from accessing user-data held on third-party sites to build innovation and large social networking platforms themselves lack ways to easily share their data, in turn monetizing their assets." (http://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/socialweb/wiki/FinalReport)


Walled Garden vs. Open Plain Strategies

"The tug-of-war between the walled-garden and open-plain strategies is a fundamental tension in many markets. For instance… Credit Cards

First, there was BankAmericard when it was exclusive to Bank of America. Then along comes Master Charge (later known as Mastercard) developed by smaller banks to compete with BOA and everyone could compete.

Personal Computers

Apple rolled out the Macintosh and Microsoft countered with Windows and ran away with the desktop computing market.

Hosanagar Wharton a professor of operations and information management believes that the open-plain approach makes the most sense in the long run. By restricting the ability to develop applications, you ultimately limit the utility of your own product or service for consumers and thus its value.

Google has taken an open approach with its Google Maps service. It provides a mechanism by which other outfits can integrate or “mash up” its maps into their web pages. That has encouraged other companies to use the service.

YouTube, which Google bought last year is another. With YouTube, anybody can upload any content and offer it. The customers are the broadcasters of openly available content." (http://freethinkr.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/the-walled-garden-strategy-loses-another-one-ftcom/#respond)

Walled Gardens as a threat to free E-Speech

"free speech online is threatened by “walled garden” services and technologies, in which the ISP or wireless provider determines what content the user has access to, what software the user can install, and even what formats are permissible for encoding audio or video. Walled garden services for the PC had their heyday in the 1990s (remember AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy?), but we are only beginning to see the extent to which they will dominate the Internet on wireless devices.

A great example of a walled garden is Apple’s iPhone. Spending several hundred dollars to purchase one doesn’t give you permission to install the software of your choice or distribute software to other users. Apple has already used its power to block software providers attempting to compete with Apple’s own software, such as the e-mail application that comes bundled with the device. Even more worrisome, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has acknowledged that iPhones are equipped with a “kill switch” that allows the company to remotely delete applications from your phone." (http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/20081024_e_speech_the_uncertain_future_of_free_expression/)

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