I’ve been trying to write a longer piece on an issue and failing, so I thought I’d put down the five paragraph version here, and see what Twitter thinks.
Roughly, circa 2006 there was an corporate/institutional integration problem and a personal integration problem. The corporate/institutional problem went something like “We need to be THE one stop solution, so we can maximize clicks and get a more global view of the customer.” The personal problem went something like “I’m sick of having to log in to 20 different services in the course of the day.”
These somewhat related concerns pushed on us the age of the mega-service, and the discussion was around which provider would become that mega-service. Would it be Google+, Facebook, Twitter? The idea of the mega-service was total identity management — convenience for us, unified data for them.
Except something strange has happened over the past couple of years. Identity is now maintained on our phones. It’s a device issue. Our portal is our app screen. Our network isn’t Facebook or Google or Twitter. It’s the phone address book that is the union of those three imports. And on the phone we stop dreaming about “If only there was a service that integrated functions of Twitter, Gmail, and Snapchat!” Because there is a service that integrates that — your phone’s notifications screen. The notifications screen is the new Facebook feed. The mega-service — a bizarre artifact of web-based logins, crippled APIs and an embarrassingly outdated cookie-based persistence scheme — is at its height right now, but it no longer solves a consumer problem. It’s about to collapse.
So where are we? Well, the consumer-corporate pact is unwinding. Mega-services and institutions still have their data needs an monopolistic dreams, but we no longer have a need for their solution. My daughter, who needed Facebook to hold her life together 4 years ago, now moves fluidly between Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine accounts, with the notifications panel her point of integration. It doesn’t occur to her that this is a hassle — it feels like little more than switching pages in Facebook. I’m not as much of a smartphone user, but I’m finding the app-based structure of Windows 8 and Xbox 360 pushes me in similar directions.
Identity has been moved upstream. It’s the revenge of the OS, and it’s already spreading beyond phones as app-based design becomes the dominant computing model. Today it’s Facebook that needs to worry. But it seems to me there are interesting implications for edtech as well. Thoughts?