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T-Online Vs. Facebook

T-Online’s recent activities force us to rethink dialectics and come up with a new term: antisyntheses, but let’s start at the beginning:

Until about 3 months ago the web as we knew it was just fine. Many of the old websites and services were still around, since 2004 we additionally got all those 15,000 wonderful new websites and services, some of them mindblowingly awesome, some of them walled gardens, it didn’t really matter.

Then Facebook launched the Facebook Platform and after some initial (well, ongoing) euphoria one thing soon became crystal clear to most web evangelists: Facebook is the antiweb and the Facebook model must not succeed, openness has to win. It is interesting that this perception happened only after Facebook actually opened up and made itself available to other services. Only this move made it the black hole of the web which sucks in attention, business models, etc. with increasing magnetism.

In dialectical terms Facebook became the web’s antitheses. But an antitheses is needed to reconstruct the web at large at the (previously unthinkable) next level. The rise of the portable social networks seems to be only one indicator for this forthcoming syntheses.

So how does T-Online fit in? Well, they recently made a facebookian move and integrated five web 2.0-ish services (Wikipedia, Webnews, Lycos iQ, Mister Wong and Meine Filmwelt) into their portal – Nicole already has written about this.

screenshot betaportal

Then they started the T-Online Beta-Portal which is their incubator for other services. Each month 2 new services will be featured, users can try the services, rate them, popular services will be added to the main portal. In their own words the Beta-Portal is:

New, innovative and at the cutting edge of current trends – the beta portal incorporates those qualities which it expects from the featured services und demands nothing less than to become the leading platform for the German Web 2.0 scene.

This claim is as ridiculous as it is funny. It took them three years to even pick up the term Web 2.0, all they read into it is users are allowed to contribute too web, all they came up with is reframing existing services into their own layout, at the same time they are claiming this makes them the leading platform in Germany.

Let’s compare T-Online’s portal with Facebook head to head for a second:

  • Facebook has hyperconnected and web savvy users who want to communicate with each other; T-Online’s portal has unconnected users who don’t know how to change the default homepage of their browser.
  • Facebook adds use value to each application because it enriches a users minifeed in a normalised way; T-Online’s portal adds no value to existing services at all, actually all it does is to reduce the usability, because they are adding banners left and right. Users would be way better off getting a link to the service and just use it there.
  • Facebook adds adaption value to each application. It has the web’s most valueable network of friends and friends of friends (a.k.a. the social graph) which can (not must) trigger tremendous viral effects spreading apps amongst its user base since people like to mimic the behaviour of their peers; T-Online gives the services some exposition without providing any context whatsoever. Again, the users would be way better off to just get the link.
  • Facebook is systemically closed (you can’t access it without signing up) but functionally open. Any service which implements their API can make itself available; T-Online’s portal is systemically open but functionally closed. They pick the featured services at the cost of withholding all other services and that’s it.

Bottom line: it is great if some people find out about some of the possibilities the web has to offer. Beyond that all they provide is the antisyntheses of the web vs. Facebook scenario making a huge step backwards compared to what is plainly available right now and reconstructing the web within their walls at the costs of their users exploiting their unawareness of the existing services.

(This article originally was written for blognation Germany. Since blognation is gone I have reposted it here)

meta 03.09.2007 #