All software does 80% of what you need
Over the last two days I’ve been heads-down on analysis of open source (and some commercial) software for multi-user blogging, content management, wiki’s and forums. Like I’ve said before, none of this software is truly click-n-configure and does only 80% of what is needed. Lots of customization is required.
I can’t find this quote or the context of his remarks, but Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce.com) once remarked something along the lines of knowing that they could only deliver 80% of the functionality customers would need in a hosted offering and the true value would lie in the 20% of a customer’s requirements and would need customization to be truly useful for any given organization.
Salesforce built a robust API (Sforce) and have delivered appexchange. The latter enables customers and partners (who’ve used the API and built applications) to sell/license them to Salesforce customers.
I’ve found the same 80% thing with open source packages. They *almost* do it all but not quite. In the case of phpBB and SMF, they’ve got all the functionality one would need to support a community of users (with granular access control of forums or private threads) but modifying the look-n-feel, having a landing page when you first log on that looks like a Web home page, are simple elements I know…but they require technical acumen to customize.
99% of small-to-midsize businesses or individuals are NOT going to do that.
Herein lies an opportunity and many Web 2.0 companies are focusing on API’s as a core part of their value propositions. It will enable mashups and web services to actually flourish (instead of being something pontificated about in analyst reports). They’ll also enable something which I see as even more important.
At some point in the not too distant future, there will be more new presentation layer paradigms like Ajax, OpenLaszlo or what Microsoft is planning with Expression. Perhaps we’ll see open source programs delivering functionality through their API’s that can be consumed by these richer user interface approaches. Interfaces that superusers (vs. technoweenies) will be able to click, configure and operate with little or not technical intervention.
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.