Dependence vs. Independence. That's the choice.

by Doc Searls

The matter of Scoble vs. Facebook is not about either. It's about the deeper choice we face in all the relationships we choose on the Net: the choice between dependence and independence.

There will always be dependencies. Working out dependencies is one of the oldest hats in software. But there's a difference between the technical and the personal. It's one thing to make sure Apache's working with Linux and quite another to make sure our social network's working with Facebook.

What matters about Scoble's experience with Facebook (and vice versa) isn't What Happened, or whether either party is being smart or dumb or good or evil. What matters is that Scoble, like millions of others, has put part of his life — and those of others to which he is socially connected — in a position of dependency on Facebook.

The arguments we should be having are not about how to make that dependency work, but how to make Scoble and the rest of us as independent as possible from every large private concern on the Net, no matter how public the good they produce may be.

Independence is a value that has run like a river, not just through the Open Source movement, but through the Independent Developer movement, the Free Software movement, and through hacker culture for the duration. Its origins are in value systems that recognize the transcendent virtues of personal freedom. Including the freedom of assembly that results in social groupings — especially those that are inherently elective. To be free is to opt in, not just out.

Scoble should be able to take his personal data, his social data, and his business, anywhere he likes. Our ability to associate and communicate and work out "social networking" should be independent of Facebook, LinkedIn, or any company's walled garden.

The problem is, we have not framed what we want, and what we invent, sufficiently in terms of independence rather than dependence. We have not started with ourselves and worked outward and otherward from there. Instead we've waited for the Facebooks and Orkuts and Friendsters of the world to prototype our "social networks" for us. Which is fine, as far as it goes. But that's like letting AT&T or Apple some other company contintue to define operating systems for us. With BSD and Linux we stopped doing that, and started making for ourselves.

We need to do the same with social networking.

"Choice", Neo said to the Architect. "The problem is choice".

We can choose to serve as batteries in the Matrix that is Facebook (and every other "social network" that serves as a world-like habitat). Or we can choose to be free. That's it.

[Later...] Speaking of indepencence, here's a bonus link I found by putting "independence" in the Firefox location bar and hitting "enter".