We all had a good laugh at France’s new law forbidding mention of Twitter or Facebook over the air, ostensibly because doing so promotes corporate interests and serves as “clandestine advertising” for those two companies.
Naturally the internet erupted with scorn. Many observers attributed the new law to some mix of protectionism, Luddism and spite, and they were probably correct. However, there’s another message here that I think is worth considering–Twitter and Facebook are private entities, and to a degree the French regulators are right that mentioning their names over the air is, in fact, advertising, and promotes their interests to the exclusion of other competing services.
The fact that so much of our lives is entrusted to these two private companies seems to be an uncomfortable truth for most people. We prefer to think of Twitter and Facebook as ever-present and eternal, but either company can, if they choose, cease operations at any time and make your digital life vanish. While this extreme is unlikely, less drastic scenarios such as radical changes to functionality, alterations of privacy policies, etc. can and do happen frequently. It’s their world, you’re just playing in it.
Twitter and Facebook are great, but what I really like are the concepts of one-to-many messaging and social networking/online sharing. I’m optimistic that open standards will take root and a federated social web will thrive, though I don’t imagine Twitter and Facebook will wish to accelerate this process.