The trend to more closed systems is undeniable. Take Facebook, the webâ€™s biggest social network. The site is a fast-growing, semi-open platform with more than 500m registered users. Its American contingent spends on average more than six hours a month on the site and less than two on Google. Users have identities specific to Facebook and communicate mostly via internal messages. The firm has its own rules, covering, for instance, which third-party applications may run and how personal data are dealt with.
Apple is even more of a world apart. From its iPhone and iPad, people mostly get access to online services not through a conventional browser but via specialised applications available only from the companyâ€™s â€œApp Storeâ€. Granted, the store has lots of appsâ€”about 250,000â€”but Apple nonetheless controls which ones make it onto its platform. It has used that power to keep out products it does not like, including things that can be construed as pornographic or that might interfere with its business, such as an app for Googleâ€™s telephone service. Appleâ€™s press conference to show off its new wares on September 1st was streamed live over the internet but could be seen only on its own devices.
According to sources familiar with Facebookâ€™s platform, the social networking giant essentially denied Appleâ€™s Ping access to application programming interfaces that would allow it to search for an iTunes userâ€™s friends on Facebook who also had signed up for Ping.