MySpace has restricted its members’ ability to stream on their pages videos hosted at Photobucket. A clear violation of the spirit of Web 2.0 – the sixties got free love; we get free widgets – the move has set off an outcry in the blogosphere. A revolt, we’re told, may be in the offing, as fed-up MySpacers pull up stakes and strike out for unfenced territories, where the deer and the antelope play.
Maybe. Maybe not. The gravitational pull produced by the network effect can be pretty strong.
It’s worth remembering that the business model of Web 2.0 social networks is the sharecropping model. After the Civil War, when the original sharecropping system took hold in the American south, the plantation owners made money in two ways. They leased land to the sharecroppers, and they also leased them their tools. It’s no different this time. The payments for land (Web pages) and tools (video widgets et al.) don’t come directly, through exchanges of cash, but rather indirectly, through the sale of advertisements. But the idea is the same. If there’s a widget that can accommodate advertising, that tool will be supplied by the plantation owner, not by some interloping varmint. Whine all you want, but that’s the way it’s going to be.
Now, if the interloper would like to pay for the privilege of being a tool supplier on the plantation owner’s land, well, that’s a different story entirely.