The Importance of Platforms

The web has been all a buzz (ouch, sorry Google) with talk of Steve Yegge‘s accidentally public memo about Google’s failure to understand platforms. It has certainly been passed around here at JESS3. It reminds me of an old blog post I read about Twitter and Facebook as “nested acceleration platforms,” though today I would probably call them “social acceleration platforms.” The basic idea was that all of the hype around the looming importance of the social graph is only made possible because platforms have evolved that enable leveraging of the social graph.

Smart people recognize viable platforms quickly and think of ways to build on them. Providing a platform is like walking out into a frenetic sea of digital entrepreneurs and experimenters and saying “I am a giant. Let me help you up to my shoulders.” However, on the interwebs, tread upon giants don’t necessarily get a raw deal. Being one of these giants and creating platforms on your shoulders can ensure your integrality in the forthcoming wave of services and applications. Google has been abundantly successful in terms of providing services in this way:

  • Search (obviously)
  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • Webmaster tools
  • Chrome

They’ve also clearly created some true platforms, top of mind is Android, and they’ve pushed for standards and developments that drive greater and faster access to the web in general because they know that faster web access = more searches on Google = more money for Google. But as much as their data liberation front allows you to get your information from Google, what Yegge and much of the web would be clamoring for is that same gumption applied to letting people interact with Google Services more uniformly, more easily and much more deeply and completely as a platform. Google is undoubtedly a giant. Let’s watch to see how broad their shoulders can become in this manner – it might be a deciding factor in the ongoing battle royal between themselves, Facebook and Apple for the hearts and minds of developers, and the behavioral data of users that follows it.

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