Experiencing the modern Internet means moving from one walled garden to the next. We drop into apps that isolate us from the web. We subscribe to multiple streaming services to watch exclusive content on one and move to watch something exclusively on another. Social networks encourage us to build our networks within their URLs and keep our interactions there.
The Internet is a series of fiefdoms, and they do what they can keep it that way. Facebook interacting with Twitter? No. Spotify working with iTunes? Definitely not. Disney+ sharing exclusive shows with Netflix? LOL. It makes sense. It’s in their business interest to put up walls and keep users within them.
Then this week we saw a crack in the metaphorical wall. It wasn’t a break. It was a crack, and it was in one of the places you might least expect it.
Xbox announced that Xbox Live is no longer going to be limited to the walls of Xbox. Instead, Microsoft will allow players on Xbox Live to connect and play with others on Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android. Microsoft is taking the service to every device it can, whether it’s a rival or not.
Walled Gardens Help No One but the Gardeners
The proliferation of walled gardens has only benefited the big platforms. Users have segregated their online lives to different areas online with some friends here, some connections there, and nowhere in-between will they intersect. Users aren’t just forced to manage one online identity. They’re forced to manage many across platforms.
Advertisers have been forced to reconcile brand performance on different platforms to see what’s working, and what’s not. More often than not the metrics across platforms aren’t the same, and the data from one cannot be leveraged to support the performance of another. Advertisers are, in many ways, forced to de-integrate their efforts.
A Crack is Not a Break
This isn’t the end walled gardens, but it may be a start. Xbox should be something we watch. Gamers are fiercely loyal to their platforms, but what happens when that loyalty isn’t forced? How will that affect not just what was formally a walled garden but the entirety of the platform ecosystem.