|Hi Frank, Let me try and address this issue first at a macro level and then at a micro level. |
I don't think of the "cloud" as distinct from the underlying communications networks. "Networks" enable cloud services platforms. Conversely, one might postulate networks without various manifestations of cloud platforms. That distinction is crucial.
Cloud services are often proprietary platforms, the most successful of which enable online commerce transactions. But Web 2.0 leverages a communications infrastructure and operates within its gravitational pull. The fact that Web 2.0 platforms emulate that centralized model are a function of choice and structural compatibility, and based upon the fact that they are both dependent on network externalities. Web 3.0 seems to be more of the same with acceleration.
"Top-down" has more sinister implications since the communications and platform business models are being linked with content. That's a powerful combination of interests and the wagons are circled to protect it. We have "winner takes all" business models. Lip service is paid to "choice" but it typically disappears in the fine print. This has a momentum of its own, but is hardly exclusionary.
Regarding eponymous "laws", these "laws" only reflect our current perception, or understanding. Reed's law seems more applicable in the communications realm, and perhaps only moderately relevant in social interactions over networks. It expresses how group network externalities (and spectrum capacity) increase with the number of users, not necessarily how, or what they are doing. How many friends (not acquaintances) can a person have? In my case, some of my best friends have been dead for centuries.
Out of curiosity, with the notable exception of Facebook, I have used many social network platforms. I maintain a presence on Linkedin for professional reasons, but all of these platforms generate lots of daily noise. What I need are better filters or more defined social networks, not more social networks. I burned-out on Twitter quickly.
Social networks seem to provide a means for people to gossip and small talk, and since people like to chat, they're popular. Thus, the popularity of SMS. But any "network" worth its salt must provide choice and flexibility. Platforms can be run by you and I; advertising can be accomplished locally for local businesses. In today's model, there are structural disincentives for privacy and security, and strong incentives for advertising at scale. This is a weakness as well as a strength. There are a lot of them, but only so many digital advertising dollars to go around. It's peanuts compared to the ecosystem to which I am referring.
Skype has 500 million accounts while 8 million accounts generate all of their revenue. How many more Facebook platforms might we see in five years? How many more Skypes in 12 months? There is nothing inherently compelling about cloud platforms in a mass market advertising model, or in a SS7 switched VoIP model, IMO.
P2P is a better way to provide social interaction in terms of cost, privacy, communications applications, attracting the developer community, and digital distribution. Financial transactions close the loop on a complete ecosystem. In communications, as soon as you hit a SS7 switch you need a mine sweeper.
A final point. In my discussions with the 20-30 olds, I am surprised to find how much their attitudes have changed in the last 6-8 years about their digital presence. There is something about it that appeals to the teenager, that he/she seems to regret upon reaching majority.