Ramblings

by Joseph Weisenthal




Rethinking Walled Gardens, But Coming To The Same Conclusion

from the eh,-no dept

It's become dogma among many that the 'Walled Garden' approach to the web is a failed idea, with AOL being the classic case. So it's interesting to see that some are challenging this idea on the grounds that in a technology's early stages walled gardens are necessary to ensure ease of use among consumers. In other words, according to the argument, a store like iTunes, which made it simple to sync the music store and the device, helped users get used to the idea of digital music. But users were getting their music online well before iTunes; it's just that the labels wanted a walled garden to protect their content. The case of AOL is interesting, because in the beginning the simplicity of associating the ISP with content clearly appealed to a lot of people. The problem with a cash cow like AOL is that the company was inclined to preserve its status and fight the natural evolution towards openness, as opposed to embrace it. So does the walled garden approach make sense in the still-early days of the wireless web? Clearly, the carriers would like to think so, but unlike the early days of the internet, users already know the web's full potential and are spoiled by it. A stripped-down, limited-functionality system will only go so far, as users wait around for a more robust offering. Still, the lessons of AOL and iTunes aren't to be taken lightly; focusing on usability is a good idea, walled garden or not.

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  1. identicon
    I, for one, 27 Jun 2006 @ 1:59pm

    Controlled growth

    The walled garden model isn't only for the benefit (arguably) of the users. It is also for the benefit of the system administrators. Starting a new project by simply unleashing some software to the wild, wide open network can be hazardous. A walled garden can be a halfway house between the development sandbox and public release. Google seem to favour that approach with insider Beta groups followed by invites. It can regulate the growth of a new service in a controlled way.

    That is the only practical use of the walled garden model imho. The problem comes when the service works, has a massive uptake and the fools try to bound the growth of it into the wider network. It's a king Canute stance, you can't kid people that your world is all there is, nothing outside to see and hope to control the way users employ and integrate your service with other systems.

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