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Freedom of Communication

Fourth of JulyHappy Birthday to all as we celebrate the birthday of our Nation. I am not sure who said it, but it is a great quotation, “The greatest lesson we can learn from the past. . . is that freedom is at the core of every successful nation in the world.” Freedom of speech is a key element from among the many freedoms that millions of people–unfortunately, not all people–enjoy. The Internet has added multiple channels of communication since the early days of Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the Internet standard for electronic mail (e-mail). The first synchronous communication channel was Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and it was followed by instant messaging, various Web chat services, and Short Message Service (SMS), the text communication service component of mobile communication systems (cell phones). Enter social networks, or social media, and we have a whole new layer of channels. I think of this evolution as starting with the basic communications layer, the Internet. On top of the Internet we have a great application called the World Wide Web, and it gives us multi-media content sharing, e-commerce, e-learning, e-health, and many other applications. I think of social networking as a layer on top of the Web that gives us a way to blog, collaborate, share, hangout, chit, chat, chit chat, tweet, hire, be hired, network, find investors, make deals, find a date, get married, and much more.
Will Facebook dominate the new world of social media? Who knows? Perhaps. Perhaps not. At one point it looked like Myspace would dominate. It was the most popular social networking site in the United States in June 2006, but two years later it was overtaken by Facebook. Then the company was purchased by News Corporation for $580 million, and then on June 29, 2011, Myspace was sold to Specific Media for $35 million. The unstoppable got stopped. It could happen to Facebook too. The Internet has proven many times that no one company is too big to fail. Enter the Google Plus Project. I explained it this morning around the holiday breakfast table at the Lake. Some family members are tech savvy, some not. They all were shaking their heads in the affirmative as soon as I described Google Plus Circles. You can have a family circle, a boating circle, a friends circle, an acquaintance circle, a new mothers circle, a hospital board circle, etc. When you post something to the family circle, you know exactly who is going to be able to read it. This is the issue with Facebook–when you post something, you are likely not sure who is going to be able to read it. There are privacy controls but nobody seems to quite understand them. Let me cite LinkedIn to make the point. I have 304 “Connections” at LinkedIn. These are people I actually know. The 304 connections link me to 7,487,410 other people, not counting the 76,856 new people that were added to my network since June 27. If you are looking for a job, having friends of your friends’ friends know about you may be a good thing. When you are writing a personal reflection about something to share with your friends, do you really want the network effect? Perhaps not. With Google Plus, when you post something to your friends circle, you know exactly who is going to be able to read what you had to say. The war over social network market share is underway. Based on what I see so far, I would not rule out Google. If key influencers begin to shift allegiance, the momentum for Facebook could change very quickly.
The bottom line is that we should be thankful that we can communicate or not whenever we want. It is one of our greatest freedoms. Let us be mindful of the many millions of people who have no freedom to communicate. Stay tuned and have a nice 4th.
Epilogue: This story appears in the blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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