A closed platform, walled garden, or closed ecosystem is a software system wherein the carrier or service provider has control over applications, content, and/or media, and restricts convenient access to non-approved applicants or content. This is in contrast to an open platform, wherein consumers generally have unrestricted access to applications and content.
For example, in telecommunications, the services and applications accessible on a cell phone on any given wireless device were formerly tightly controlled by the mobile operators. The operators limited the applications and developers that were available on users' home portals and home pages. Thus, a service provider might restrict user access to users whose account exhausted the pre-paid money on their account. This has long been a central issue constraining the telecommunications sector, as developers face huge hurdles in making their applications available to end-users.
In a more extreme example, the regulated 1970s American telephone system, Bell, owned all the hardware (including all phones) and had indirect control over the information sent through their infrastructure. It was an open government-sanctioned natural monopoly regulated by the Communications Act of 1934. However, in the landmark case Hush-A-Phone v. United States, Bell unsuccessfully sued a company producing plastic telephone attachments.
More generally, a walled garden can refer to a closed or exclusive set of information services provided for users. Similar to a real walled garden, a user is unable to escape this closed environment except through the designated entry/exit points or if the walls are removed.
|Aspect of closedness/openness of a platform||Linux||Windows||macOS||Apple iOS|
|Demand-side use (end-user)||open||open||open||open|
|Supply-side user (application developer)||open||open||open||closed|
|Platform provider (hardware/operating system (OS) bundle)||open||open||closed||closed|
|Platform sponsor (design & intellectual property (IP) rights owner)||open||closed||closed||closed|
Some examples of walled gardens include:
- In the 1990s, AOL developed what later was called its "walled garden" model of service. The idea was to preferentially offer sponsored content to users when possible. During this period, CBS paid to provide sports content, ABC paid to provide news, and 1-800-Flowers paid to be the default florist for anyone seeking one. This strategy became AOL's first good method for selling advertisements. In its time, this method was highly profitable to AOL.
- Amazon's Kindle line of eReaders. As an October 2011 Business Insider article, entitled "How Amazon Makes Money From The Kindle" observes: "Amazon's Kindle is no longer just a product: It's a whole ecosystem." Moreover, as Business Insider noted "The Kindle ecosystem is also Amazon's fastest-growing product and could account for more than 10% of the company's revenue next year."
- Apple iOS and other mobile devices, which are restricted to running pre-approved applications from a digital distribution service.
- Barnes & Noble's Nook devices. In late December 2011, B&N began pushing the automatic, over-the-air firmware update 1.4.1 to Nook Tablets that removed users' ability to gain root access to the device and the ability to sideload applications from sources other than the official Barnes and Noble NOOK Store (without modding). Nook HD devices were similarly "closed", until May 2013, when BN opened its ecosystem somewhat by permitting users to install the Google Play Store and the various Android apps offered there, including those of rivals, such as Audible.com, ComiXology, Kindle, Kobo, and Google itself.
- The Encrypted Media Extensions specification provides APIs to control playback of encrypted content. This is part of the World Wide Web Consortium's web standards and was authored by members working from Google, Microsoft and Netflix.
- Kwangmyong, the national intranet service that operates in North Korea. It operates as a "walled garden" network, as no information from overseas is permitted to enter the network without government approval.
- Verizon Wireless' CDMA network and policies effectively prohibiting activation of non-Verizon sanctioned devices on their network. Verizon Wireless is frequently noted (and often criticized) for this practice.
- Permissioned blockchains have been called the “walled gardens” of 2017.
- Video game consoles have a long history of walled gardens, with developers needing to purchase licences to develop for the platform, and, in some cases, needing editorial approval from the console manufacturer prior to publishing games.
- Super-apps such as WeChat have been called walled gardens by critics.
- Data portability
- Vendor lock-in
- Business ecosystem
- Damaged good
- Dark web
- Defective by Design
- Digital rights management
- Gated community
- Open source
- Software protection dongle
- Registered user
- Memetic, Daniel. "Escaping the Walled Gardens in the Clouds". Tech-FAQ.com. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- Smith, Nicholas (2009). "Interview With Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of SuperCorp (2009): No Matter How Big You Are, Diversify or Die". Ericsson.com Company Docs. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- "Definition of: walled garden". PCmag.com. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
- Eisenmann, Thomas R.; Parker, Geoffrey; Van Alstyne, Marshall (31 August 2008). "Opening Platforms: How, When and Why?" (PDF). Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Working Paper No. 09-030. Harvard Business School. p. 2. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1264012. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Wu, Tim (2016). The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads. New York: Penguin Random House. p. 210. ISBN 9780385352017.
- Mathew Ingram (29 February 2012). "How the e-book landscape is becoming a walled garden". Gigaom. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- Jay Akasie (7 September 2012). "With New Kindle, Bezos Proves Ecosystems Matter More Than Hardware". Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry (18 October 2011). "How Amazon Makes Money From The Kindle; Amazon's Kindle is no longer just a product: It's a whole ecosystem". Business Insider. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
- Charles Arthur (17 April 2012). "Battle for the Internet (Part III of series): Walled gardens look rosy for Facebook, Apple – and would-be censors". The Guardian.
- Ben Bajarin (1 July 2011). "Why Competing With Apple is So Difficult". Time.
- Smith, Peter (21 December 2011). "Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet both get "upgraded" with reduced functionality". ITWorld.com. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Verry, Tim (21 December 2011). "Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet Receive Root Access Killing Software Updates". PCPerspective.com. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Carnoy, David (2 May 2013). "Barnes & Noble adds Google Play store to its tablets: The Nook HD and HD+ may not be fully "open" Android tablets, but they're now much more open than they were". CNet.
- "Encrypted Media Extensions". www.w3.org. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Permissioned blockchains are the virgin margaritas of cryptocurrency
- "We Are the App Store". Hacker News. Y Combinator. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
- Martin Adolph of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) (2011). "The world of video games: Trends in video games and gaming". ITU News (10).
- Robert A. Burgelman; Carrie C. Oliver (1 August 1997). "Electronic Arts in 1995". Stanford Graduate School of Business. pp. 16 pages. SM24-PDF-ENG. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
- Liao, Rita (8 October 2022). "Elon Musk's X app for 'everything' might be a non-starter in the US". TechCrunch. Retrieved 28 October 2022.