Rushkoff on "The Great Facebook Land Grab of Aught-Nine"

At one minute past midnight Eastern Time this Saturday, Facebook users will be permitted to claim a unique user name, which may well spark a virtual vanity landgrab the likes of which we've never seen. Author and former BB guestblogger Douglas Rushkoff says this is the moment when Facebook becomes obsolete.

This is more than 200 million users, already engaged, simultaneously scrambling in the greatest territory dash since the Oklahoma Territory's land run of 1889, albeit with fewer shotgun injuries.

But Facebook's new page-naming scheme actually brings up other memories for me, ones that hold bigger stakes for the company itself. It reminds me of the moment that AOL, formerly a completely closed network with its own content, allowed its users onto the greater Internet for the first time. Internet USENET boards were filled with what we called "newbies" wandering around and asking anyone they could find how to download pornography. Formerly high-level conversations were quickly brought down to the lowest common denominator as a huge population of people uninitiated in basic Internet etiquette flooded the networks faster than we could educate them.

The impact was far worse for AOL. By opening itself to the greater Internet, AOL revealed itself as something of a wading pool. A mini-Internet. Once people could use AOL as a portal to the true, unadulterated, global net, the company was reduced to an ISP. AOL became series of phone numbers you dial to get online, and little more. Steve Case knew his moment was over, and used his inflated stock price to purchase some real assets like Time Warner. We all know how that turned out.

The Facebook Land Grab (Daily Beast)