“Antisocial networks,” Facebook and innovation

No sooner have businesses started to really grasp the potential benefits of Web 2.0 technologies such as social networking sites…then someone identifies a new, potentially negative application for them. Researchers at the Institute of Computer Science in Greece report in a new working paper “Antisocial Networks: Turning a Social Network into a Botnet” that they were able to create a seemingly innocent Facebook application that could theoretically enlist the computers of people who downloaded it to launch a denial of service attack on a third-party website. A Facebook spokesman downplayed the likelihood of such an occurrence.

On a completely different — and virtually opposite — note, a Harvard Law School professor argues that an important downside to platforms like Facebook and Apple’s iPhone is something else entirely: centralized control that may lead to lower innovation.  Jonathan Zittrain, author of the book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It , explained in a recent interview with CNET that, as technologies like Facebook grow in popularity as software development ecosystems, their centralized control poses a risk to innovation. According to Zittrain,  because companies like Facebook or Apple can remove applications (and may do so in response to complaints), innovation in the entire ecosystem may suffer.

For more on business use of Web 2.0 technologies, see Harnesssing the Power of the Oh-So-Social Web (SMR, Spring 2008).

And for more on what it takes to build a successful platform technology, see How Companies Become Platform Leaders (SMR, Winter 2008).