charmian: a snowy owl (Default)
In the wake of Ning announcing that they're cancelling free networking on Ning, some thoughts

1. This can happen to anyone, so when using a host/service, it's important think about exportability and open formats, and escape routes: Even if the owners of a service don't openly decide to kick out free users, businesses are always failing. Obviously, no business wants to fail, but there are no guarantees in the business world. If the service can't keep running, or service degrades to the point where it's not worth sticking around anymore, you've got to think about what you're going to do. If you can't export your data, however, leaving is impossible. Therefore, an easy and convenient way of exporting all relevant data is very important.

2. Exportation is a problem, but what about importation? With blogging, the most popular formats are often open-source, or freely installable, either on your own server, or those of other services. The ease of use of WP or WPMU or Buddypress installs means that even if you were to have to leave the service, you could create a comparable blog elsewhere.

3. Addressing: If you move, then how will people find you? This is why the ability to use a domain name (and effective domain-name mapping) is so important, especially if you have many visitors from outside the service. Owning the domain name means that even if you leave the service, people will be able to find you.

4. Features: If the software/service has features that are not to be found on any alternate ones, it'll be even more difficult to move. This is why I'm puzzled by Posterous trying to get Ning users, because the feature set on both services is quite different.

5. Network effects: As previously discussed, this is the situation in which we derive benefits not only from us using the service, but from other people's usage of the service. (This can be indirect: more people using Wordpress means more tutorials, more themes, more tools, even if it doesn't directly impact one's installation and usage; or, it can be direct, as in the case of Facebook) This is the only one for which a technological solution hasn't really been found yet. Perhaps DiSO will solve the problem, or people moving to multi-platform clients (a la Seesmic and Brizzly). I think with Twitter and FB and Tumblr and a lot of people using a lot of things simultaneously, a solution is coming closer to being reached. With higher smartphone/mobile adoption, also, clients which read locked information are increasing. Also, with the greater size of a platform, the amount of people interested in creating clients/etc increases.

May 2014

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