The digital world is now filled with things I have termed “Branded Actions”. These are things that we do, that are facilitated by one, generally proprietary product, and our use of them tends to perpetuate a dependency on this product.
1. Tumbling. Tumblr is in fact a blog. But when you use it, you are not blogging, you are tumbling.
2. Tweeting. Twitter is a mico-blogging service, and there are a few out there. But no one ‘tweets’ outside of twittter
3. Status. You can update a myspace status, but as Facebook actually forces people to see it, this is something almost exclusive to facebook these days.
And there are a few more: instagraming, stumbling,
Can you imagine if when you said you were going ‘driving’, that it meant you had to be using a Ford, and maybe a specific car model at that? Or if ‘walking’ meant you were wearing Nike shoes? Or if playing guitar meant playing a Gibson SG?
Each one of those older companies (Ford, Nike, Gibson) would love to own those actions by actually owning a patent on the mechanism, and trademarking the term, but they came about when people didn’t patent actions that much, and didn’t patent experiences much at all. So generally we got a patented product. A ‘Gibson SG’ as product, instead of the patented act of ‘SG’ing’.
With software, the focus is on patenting an action, as there isn’t much differentiation between interfaces, and software facilitates experience rather than physical product, so the experience is what is being sold. And the software explosion occured in a time where companies have focused heavily on trademarking brands. So now our actions are branded.
But the real downside, is that you can’t use one of these services among another. Because of their proprietary nature, they all tend to wall themselves off from the rest of the world. Taking Facebook as example, to participate, you need a facebook account. Imagine that in other realms: Imagine if ‘Driving’ meant only Fords. You could drive on the road, but only in a Ford. Or if playing music meant everyone had to have a Gibson instrument.
When you look at these activities on these scales, you realize the reason for their existence. Not to facilitate an action and make a profit selling that product, but to OWN an action, branded and trademarked, and to create and own a microcosm for this action to occur in, essentially insuring that world to be free from competitive forces ala Bell System.