Delicious acquisition anxiety

Phil Edwards writes about the discontent felt by users when the big bad Yahoo buys out a social software web service. It’s tied into a critique of web 2.0 as an exploitative phenomenon.
I suspect this pattern arises from client-server architecture and server cost, regardless of malice. Successful client-server apps like google and del and flickr wind up costing someone a truckload of money. They need to do something to pay for the servers. There’s hardware and backup and patches and air conditioning and so on.
Even if you factored out venture money and outsourced r&d and the other artifacts of high-tech commercial culture, you’d still need someone to pay for the servers. Thus the classic phenomenon of a successful, idealistic web app provider doing a begathon when the server goes down.
The governance issues posed by server ownership get particularly strange when it comes to online games and communities. Eventually it could lead to political governance, where costs are paid via taxes to a democratically chosen government.
Some applications (aggregated comments) might be done decentralized. e.g. a shared bookmarking service that aggregates the bookmarks in each of our browsers, and allows browsing and querying of the virtual db, or a decentralized aggregated comment tracker.
When these apps are conceived after there’s an installed base of tools, it requires painful standards work to make this sort of thing happen, and then the installed base turn adoption process can take years. Data standards are political; the user base needs to have enough power and organization to create and demand the standard; this can take a long time. In many cases it’s easier to throw up a server, which gets us into the economic bind.

2 thoughts on “Delicious acquisition anxiety”

  1. Actually, operating these types of apps like is not all that expensive and very scalable when you have a good system in place.
    The bigger problem that must have been facing was supporting a head count of 10 people in New York City and Sillicon Valley. It is far cheaper if you are based out somewhere like Kuala Lumpur. Even craigslist, a hugely trafficed site has very manageable hosting costs.

  2. It did not seem like the Blogger app, went commercial after being purchased by Google. I got a free sweatshirt out the deal for buying a “pro” account.
    I don’t really know enough about all that to judge.
    But I do not think buyout always means loss for the consumer. If that is waht you were suggesting.

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