Category Archives: disintermediation

The great RockMelt social disintermediation

Remember how newspapers once held your attention and then Google lifted links to the articles, pulling you away from the newspaper advertising? And then how social media portals such as Twitter and Facebook used links from your friends to pull you away from Google as your main news feed?

Ah, the irony. Now RockMelt — a new “social media” web browser — may pull you away from social media, or at least the portals trying to keep your eyeballs for ad revenue. (Do you think Twitter’s recent site redesign was a gift, or a ploy to get you back to www.twitter.com instead of TweetDeck so it can begin monetizing your corneas?) RockMelt integrates social functionality such as images of friends online, Twitter and Facebook links, Foursquare location updates, and your favorite blog posts, all in the borders of what appears to be a standard web browser. It mirrors numerous RSS-type feeds from social media (Feedly, Likebutton.me, Flipboard) with a browser hook, but the implication is the same — RockMelt pulls just the content you want away from services such as Twitter who are busy defending their audiences by trying to make their own portals your gateway online.

The process is called disintermediation, an unstoppable evolution in communications in which content producers first try to protect their audiences by locking them in to as much ad inventory as possible, only to have audiences find ways to escape with the juicy content bits elsewhere. We like your idea, RockMelt. The irony is with your modern social functionality, you’re doing what emerging content scrapers have always done — remonetizing someone else’s audience.

Charlene Li called this back in March 2008 with her famous blog post, “Social networks will be like air.” Social net functionality, she suggested, will become ubiquitous as consumers learn to take their identities, relationships and activities everywhere, a plug-in to any communication system. Business models will try to follow, but as social plug-ins become standard wall outlets, it will grow more difficult for any single player to defend its walled commercial garden. The only possible defense is for a business to turn its social platform into such a pervasive, open operating system that everyone else must use it, the apparent strategy of Facebook. But like the mechanics that now power everything from the watch on your wrist to the engine in your car, social dynamics may become the motors of the future, insertable into any device and as wired as the electricity in your walls. Good luck, RockMelt. We’ll give you a run, but your point of differentiation may not be defendable for much longer.

Hat tip Brandflakes.