So, if you agree that Costello's idea of what might be a "true platform" is wrong, what might a "true platform" look like? In the computer world the word "platform" implies a foundation or stage on which other functions or products operate. As for true, well, that's in the eye of the marketer, but it would seem to be associated with the idea of generality and, might I suggest, "openness."
I'd argue that a true platform is, to use an old, hoary saw, "a level playing field," a generalized underpinning that services a wide range of things that depend on the platform to operate. For example, Linux and OS X are "true" platforms while Windows and iOS, due to vendor constraints, are only sort of true.
So, what in social networking might be a "true" platform? Well, it's not Facebook or Twitter ...
Ladies and gentlemen, I offer for your consideration App.net, a service offered by Mixed Media Labs.
App.net is a real-time message routing infrastructure. It has a totally minimalistic and essentially unfeatured native user interface, it isn't free, it doesn't constrain you to 140 character messages ... it is, in essence, neutral -- a level-playing field for messaging.
The idea behind App.net is that applications that want to route messages in general and social message in particular between users need an efficient, reliable, real-time transport service that provides what are, in effect, smart pipes on top of the Internet's dumb pipes. And that, in a nutshell, is all that App.net does.
The genesis of App.net stretches all the long, long way back to July this year when Dalton Caldwell, Mixed Media Labs CEO and former CEO of imeem (which, in 2009, was acquired by MySpace and promptly shut down), wrote a great blog post titled "What Twitter could have been" in which he explains:
When Twitter started to get traction, a year or two into its existence, I decided that Twitter was the Best Thing Ever. I realized that Twitter, because of its API, actually was a real-time protocol to connect various services in a novel way. I had debates with my other tech-nerd friends about whether Twitter could be one of the fundamental building blocks of the Internet via their powerful API. When reporters or investors asked me what I thought the most exciting company in the valley was, I would invariably answer "Twitter".
But that enthusiasm didn't last. Dalton points out that within Twitter the group that argued for the company's business model to be advertising-based won out over the group that saw Twitter's business as a real time API-based messaging system.