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Walled Garden


A walled garden is an online environment where users can only access network-based content and services. In effect, the walled garden directs the user's navigation inside specific areas, allowing access to a selection of materials or preventing access to others.

Although a walled garden does not always prevent users from navigating outside the walls, it frequently makes it more challenging than staying within the environment.

What is the history of walled gardens?

Walled garden is a word that was coined by John Malone, the former owner of Tele-Communications Inc. The walled garden is like a magazine where the viewer may access a variety of content types, according to AT&T, which acquired Malone's company in 1999. While magazine readers can buy a different magazine to extend their access to content, this is not always available. Thus, readers are limited to accessing and consuming only the content in front of them at any given moment.

Why Walled Garden is Important?

Walled gardens have existed for a very long time. The walled garden approach is an effective approach used by schools and universities to keep students from accessing inappropriate content on the web. Teachers require a password to exit the walled garden and access the Internet without restrictions on website content.

Additionally, some Internet service providers (ISPs), like AOL, Comcast, and AT&T, provide a walled garden environment. ISPs typically send a walledgarden.cfg file to the user's modem for validation via a process known as provisioning. This kind of configuration restricts the resources that users can access.

The walled-garden method is commonly employed by mobile phone companies. Mobile carriers frequently utilize it on wireless devices, including smart phones, to give customers access to limited content. The walled garden refers to the part of the Web that users can access.

What is the purpose of using walled gardens?

Walled gardens are used by different platforms for different reasons, such as improving user engagement, cybersecurity, and, of course, ad revenue, which is a significant source of income for platforms and websites that are open to the public.

1. Complete control over hardware and software

Wall gardens improve security by preventing users from accessing external, potentially harmful content and downloading malware. For example, Apple's business strategy is precisely founded on the concept of walled gardens. Apple's hardware and software are tightly controlled, and the business has strict rules regarding third parties. These approaches allow the organization to take pride in the security of its systems and devices.

2. Advertisers and walled gardens

Walled gardens are among the most popular and effective company models when it comes to digital advertising and sales. While preventing users from utilizing other platforms, they frequently give consumers everything they could possibly want from their digital experience. Probably the most prevalent example of a walled garden on the internet is social media.

3. Exclusive content

Some walled gardens exist to provide a sense of exclusivity. Game companies excel at this: developers make and sell games and consoles, which cannot be purchased and played on third-party devices. Consoles and games go hand in hand and create a closed environment.

What are some examples of a walled garden?

Common walled garden examples are as follows:

  • Google Play Store and Apple App Store;
  • Social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook;
  • Platforms for collaboration, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack; and
  • Digital platforms for marketing and advertising, including Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

Apple's App Store is an excellent example of a walled garden. Although the store claims to allow customers to download over 2.2 million apps to their Apple tablets and smartphones, customers are unable to access applications that do not adhere to Apple's stringent standards. According to Apple, a walled garden eliminates many apps that are dangerous, may contain malware, or do not follow the company's user interface and user experience guidelines.

Another excellent illustration of a walled garden is on social media sites like Twitter. When a link is shared on Twitter, the Twitter application opens the webpage within the Twitter app rather than opening an external web browser on the user's behalf. This is mostly done to ensure that the user never leaves the app and is more inclined to continue browsing Twitter after reading the article. Likewise, there are more opportunities to show users promoted content and ads the longer they remain on Twitter's walled-garden platform.

Collaboration services, such as Microsoft Teams and Slack, limit user communication to other users of the same platform. This helps to strengthen user bases and could potentially increase revenue for users that need to communicate with others within the collaborative app.

Lastly, walled-garden approaches can be employed by online marketing and advertising platforms to assist companies in identifying potential clients across social media platforms. The social media platform's owner analyzes user data to find people who would be a good fit for a particular product or service. Businesses that want to target these people can pay the social media business to strategically place advertising or other marketing content.

The advantage for the business looking to promote is that the social media platform company does much of the heavy lifting in analyzing user data to discover the best customers to target. On the other hand, the walled-garden approach benefits the social media platform company by eliminating external competition.

Why are walled gardens popular?

The following reasons explain why walled gardens are still popular:

  1. They demand that users remain on social media platforms instead of going elsewhere in order to maximize the quantity of marketing and advertising campaigns.
  2. The kind of content that consumers can access is controlled by them.
  3. They protect users against malicious files and downloads.
  4. They give the illusion of exclusivity for walled gardens by requiring payment prior to accessing walled-in content.

Why do many people dislike the concept of a walled garden?

Although walled gardens often provide a highly polished and easy-to-navigate selection of apps, services, and information, this selection may only represent a small portion of what the wider internet has to offer. This lack of choice frequently results in a lack of freedom to access other stuff that is blocked behind the wall.

As a result, some have offered alternative names, such as walled prison and walled desert, to better depict the walled garden's confinement and lack of diversity. Other synonyms for walled garden are closed platform and closed ecosystem.

Can you create your own walled garden?

Anyone can build a walled garden system, just as they can make their own website or app. However, it is critical to understand that walled gardens are complicated, multilayered systems. A successful walled garden requires both expertise and budget. There's a reason why the most popular walled gardens come from large companies like Meta and Google. A major tech company has the resources to build and maintain its enclosed environment.

What is walled garden media?

In digital advertising, a walled garden is any large publisher that operates within a closed environment and controls all activity and processes. Walled gardens include companies like Amazon, Alphabet (the parent firm of Google), and Meta (which includes Facebook and Instagram). Advertiser ad types and customer access are both managed by the publisher in a walled garden. Most rely on a self-service model, in which advertisers manage bids, create advertisements, and access campaign information provided by publishers.

The average consumer spends a huge chunk of their screen time in various walled gardens. A few examples of engaging with walled gardens include browsing Instagram, purchasing items on Amazon, or even downloading a new app from the App Store. Within those gardens, users are served ad material based on previous activities, such as movies linked to search history, recently consumed content, or product suggestions based on previous purchases. For example, if a user follows numerous food magazines and cookware brands on Instagram, they will most likely see targeted ads for pots and pans.

Are Walled Gardens Just Used in Technology?

No, walled gardens are not limited to networked contexts and platforms. In the field of advertising technology (adtech), the idea is also gaining traction. In adtech, a walled garden is a closed environment controlled by the operator.

When a digital marketer can make customers utilize its full application suite, it is considered to have reached the walled garden level. A demand-side platform (DSP) to push ads for particular products, a digital marketing platform (DMP) for audience targeting, and a dynamic creative optimization (DCO) tool for ad hosting and personalization are a few examples of these solutions.

What Companies Use Walled Gardens in Advertising?

The most well-known adtech businesses utilizing walled gardens are Google and Facebook, sometimes known as "the duopoly." The following two reasons make these businesses industry leaders:

  • They have lots of customer information. Google has about 1.8 billion active Gmail users, whereas Facebook has 3.05 billion as of Q3 2023.
  • Every day, users log into their Google and Facebook accounts using various devices, providing the duopoly with accurate consumer data, including device usage. It should be noted that independent adtech vendors face challenges with cross-device targeting and attribution.
  • Google's Chrome and Android platforms provide extensive audience control.

With their latest initiatives, Google and Facebook aim to strengthen their positions in the adtech market.

  • Facebook Watch: A platform for streaming videos.
  • Facebook Showcase: Premium video advertisers can purchase spots on Facebook Watch.
  • Facebook Creative Shop: a division that collaborates with companies from its portfolio, such as Oculus, Instagram, and Messenger.
  • Google Zoo: An innovative think tank that helps companies use YouTube and other Google products.

Google and Facebook, however, are not the only ones using a walled garden approach in adtech. Amazon and Apple are also involved, giving rise to the abbreviation "Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA)" or "Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple (FAGA)."

There are benefits and drawbacks to walled gardens. While they can boost a company's market share, they can also turn off customers who value variety.

Benefits of a Walled Garden

Walled gardens are very common because of their benefits, which consist of:

  1. Increased security. Manufacturers have control over closed, regulated systems. Businesses such as Apple can guarantee the security of their consumers' data by limiting access to third parties.
  2. Manufacturers can keep control in closed, regulated systems. Businesses such as Apple can ensure the security of their customers data by limiting access to third parties.
  3. Companies such as Apple can ensure the security of their customers' data by limiting access to other parties.
  4. Monetization opportunities. Companies can earn more easily from advertising revenue, promoted product sales, and paid subscriptions by attracting consumers into a controlled environment.
  5. Cross-platform tracking. Google, Facebook, and other advertising giants benefit from users accessing the same websites via numerous platforms. They follow consumers across devices and send them targeted campaigns via their walled gardens.
  6. Controlled user experience. Wall gardens choose which user experience they want to deliver. Their closed systems provide significant control because customers only see what the wall gardens allow them to see.

Drawbacks of Walled Garden

Not everyone embraces the concept of walled gardens, with critics even labeling them as potentially predatory towards consumers. These enclosed ecosystems are also referred to as "walled deserts" and "walled prisons." Here are the reasons:

  1. Loss of competitive traffic. Users drawn into walled gardens tend to remain within them, reducing their engagement with competing platforms. This concentration of users can pose challenges for smaller websites reliant on monthly ad revenue, as the most well-known platforms attract the majority of users.
  2. privacy concerns. While not all walled gardens are alike, many of them, particularly social media platforms, actively sell user data to third parties, jeopardizing user privacy. This practice raises significant concerns about the protection of personal information within these closed ecosystems.
  3. Monopolistic practices. Companies that operate walled gardens make it harder and harder to get out of them. While Apple products are renowned for having great cross-platform compatibility, their compatibility with other systems isn't as outstanding. For this reason, the majority of Apple buyers wind up with many items from the same brand. Apple even urges families and entire friend groups to purchase its mobile devices because so many collaboration and communication apps are either limited or unavailable on other systems

Common walled garden applications in cybersecurity

  1. Mobile device management (MDM) systems. These systems enforce security policies and controls on different types of mobile devices that are utilized inside the network of an organization.
  2. Application sandboxing. To stop malicious activities from damaging the host environment and systems, a walled garden involves isolating various applications from underlying systems.
  3. Zero trust architecture. All devices and users attempting to access the network must follow stringent security access controls and verification techniques.


On the summary, a walled garden is a browsing environment in which customers are limited to specific material on a website and can only access certain areas of the website. The primary goal of establishing a walled garden is to protect users from specific types of information. This strategy is commonly used by Internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent users from accessing some websites.

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