The Internet *is* a platform

UPDATE: Graeme Thickins will be posting from PC Forum and has an excellent prelude post today. It covers many of the issues important to the success of internet as a platform.

If you have *any* doubt that the internet is a platform — and that the future of the Web is upon us and accelerating — then I provide for your clicking, your experiencing, and your gignormous investment of time, this site full of 907 Web 2.0-ish links.

Some of these sites are peripheral to Web 2.0 (or what is increasingly being referred to as “Next Generation internet”) meaning they’re not actual web application offerings. An example is the AttentionTrust.org attempting to ensure that all netizens own the data collected from our attention invested in all these Web offerings. You can also click “Category Definitions” at the top of the page to see how the eConsultant has categorized the list o’ links.

I’m going to come back to a recurring theme I posted about earlier: there are too many value propositions and too many Web places expecting us all to invest our attention, time, energy and effort with them.

Heck…I can’t even get through a list of 907 links like this one…let alone decide upon who will survive and be worthy of my attention. Which online storage place do I choose to safekeep my precious digital files?  Which calendar application can my family and I use to input all birthdays, events and work on it as a shared calendar?  Lastly, which of the collaboration sites can I either use or recommend to clients (e.g., Basecamp, Foldera, Joyent, Rallypoint, ProjectSpaces, StikiPad, et al) will still be with us a year or two from now?

Imagine a small business, with collaborators geographically disbursed, begin to use Foldera. Everyone participating climbs the learning curve, invests in uploading and input into the various calendars and other collaborative aspects, and then what if Foldera folds in 2007?  They’re now offline and all the data is sitting on their servers. This team is screwed.

8 Comments

  1. Garrick Van Buren on March 3, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    Completely agree with you Steve.

    Hosted solutions potentially provide a steady revenue stream for the providers, but at some inopportune moment, the service will go down (indefinitely or otherwise). Letting customers get their data _out_ via opml, rss, or some other commonly understood format is an insurance policy. Open Sourcing an application is even better.



  2. Richard Lusk on March 3, 2006 at 11:18 pm

    Hi Steve, and Garrett too.

    Thanks for you critical feedback, it is most welcome.

    First of all-Your data is your data. Getting your data out of Foldera is as easy as getting it in.

    Steve said:

    “What if Foldera folds?”

    …and Garrett said:

    “Letting customers get their data _out_ via opml, rss, or some other commonly understood format is an insurance policy”

    You both make excellent points. We will integrate both RSS and OPML as you have requested. Thanks for suggesting it.

    Besides RSS, and OPML do you think it would be useful for Foldera to create a virtual *F* drive on your local machine that would allow users to work in a disconnected fashion when the internet is unavailable, and then re-sync when you go back online? It would require a very small download. That way you would always have an offline version of your online files…and visa versa.

    This might mitigate some of your concerns of your files only living online.

    Please let me know if you think that this would be a useful feature. I am looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say about this.

    Best,
    Richard Lusk
    CEO/Foldera



  3. Richard Lusk on March 3, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    oops, Sorry Garrick, I mispelled your name. It won’t happen again.

    Richard



  4. Steve Borsch on March 4, 2006 at 12:30 am

    Didn’t think Foldera would fold in 2007 (yours, by the way, is the most promising collaborative site I’ve seen yet). But before I’d invest my attention and participation (or recommend the hell out of you which I’ve already started to do with a caveat emptor tossed in), I’d have to have some assurances and guarantees that — God forbid you do go out of business — you don’t shut down my virtual collaborative hub with all my data within it or backed up to my hard drive with now useless proprietary formats.

    A virtual F drive is an interesting concept. But knowing that one reason I use Gmail, Newsgator, Typepad and other hosted services is that I enjoy full use regardless of what computer OS I’m using at any given time.

    You mention a small download. I’d only use such a solution if it were cross-platform (I mainly use Mac OS X but have a WinXP/Linux laptop too). My more pressing concern is *not* managing .doc and other files ala FTP on Foldera, but rather what happens with all my other data.

    What if I want to export all my other data and back it up? (And maybe use if offline like Salesforce.com facilitates with their offline client). For instance, are you supporting microformats? I know that microformats are new, but the calendar, for example, could use the ‘hCalendar’ microformat and your contact manager the ‘hCard’ one so there would be systemic interoperability with other providers (yes…I know that microformats aren’t yet W3C ratified or used by many others at this stage).

    Portability would be a risk for you. It’s a risk for, say, Newsgator to allow OPML import and export of RSS feeds (which they do). I can export my OPML and use a competitive aggregator (which I did when I switched to Newsgator). But I believe offering people the freedom to switch is *critical* if you expect buy-in. Maybe not right now, but people are wising up pretty fast when they see the dozens of competing web applications vying for their attention and screaming “Participate Here Please!”

    Within a short period of time, startups will quickly understand that people will invest time, energy, effort and resources in to any given web application if they’re not locked in. Building in switching costs with proprietary formats can’t be inherent in your or any other providers strategy.



  5. Jonathan George on March 4, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I believe your post was very well thought out. In fact, it raised at least one issue that we’ve focused on here at StikiPad. In particular, we have already addressed the backup/export/move to another provider issue. We fully believe that the content you create is simply that: your content. While we have the distinct pleasure of offering a simple, easy method of collaborating and gathering that content in one location, the content is certainly not owned by us. With that in mind, we built in a .Zip export of all your pages, either in HTML or the particular markup (textile/markdown) language you chose to create your StikiPad in. To top it off, our RSS feeds (which can also be password protected) provide the full page content and not just the first few lines.

    Speaking of microformats, I believe that they are to become a huge part of the web. Again, StikiPad is a leader in this area with built-in support for the Creative Commons rel=license, rel=nofollow, and rel=tag. Thats 1/3rd of the specified microformats available at http://microformats.org/wiki/Main_Page with additional support on the way — where it makes sense.

    Lets get real here guys. Exporting and enabling personal backups of your users content should be a core piece of *any* web software. A customer should never have to worry about whether or not their data will be there tomorrow. Thats part of the value that a web application brings to the table. If a company cannot deliver on that, final exports should be provided to existing customers and the service simply turned off once all expectations have been satisfied.

    Thanks for taking the time to raise this issue &mdash&; I know a lot of people have it in the back of their heads, but it’s a question that is actually rarely asked.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan (StikiPad Cofounder)



  6. Chris von Spiegelfeld on April 20, 2006 at 8:43 am

    We agree with the other comments that in order to free customers from the limitations of using e-mail and their hard drives to manage team collaboration, they need to be comfortable that their data is safe and sound. We, like most of the other companies referenced here, offer the the ability to zip up your uploaded content and take it with you. But it’s important to emphasize this to help them overcome the fear of adopting new ways of doing things. Also, we’ve been in business since 1996 and don’t plan on going out of business any time soon.

    Best regards,

    Chris von Spiegelfeld
    ProjectSpaces Representative



  7. Michael Sampson on April 26, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    Hi Steve, Garrick, Richard, Jonathan and Chris,

    One major theme strikes me as I think about the conversation that you are having here.

    From the customer’s perspective, how useful is the information once you have exported it? Can it be imported into another application so the team can keep going … or is it dead? Sure, you might be able to put the information into a ZIP file or export it as a PDF, but if the team can’t do anything with it going forward, then that’s a big problem. Email has long been really good at this, and both vendors and ISVs have focused on building migration tools to enable you to shift from Outlook to Thunderbird, or Outlook to Notes, or Outlook Express to something different. With the new breed of collaboration vendor, however, where we all have a different take on what is needed, where we each have our own “secret sauce”, this is going to be more difficult. Prior to joining Foldera, I wrote about this in a Shared Spaces white paper entitled “Why Closed Doesn’t Work for Collaborative Workspaces: Three Reasons Why Openness is Required” (see http://www.shared-spaces.com/blog/2005/11/why_closed_does.html).

    Anyway, thanks for letting me chime in. I’ll keep thinking about this from the perspective of those customers that sign up with Foldera in the days and weeks ahead.

    Best to you each,

    Michael Sampson
    Global VP of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
    Foldera, Inc.



  8. Steve Borsch on April 26, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    “With the new breed of collaboration vendor, however, where we all have a different take on what is needed, where we each have our own “secret sauce”, this is going to be more difficult.”

    Agreed. In fact, the challenge right now (though probably it’s always been this way in information technology) is all about choice. Who do I choose as a collaboration vendor? Once I’ve made this choice, data goes in, people are trained, and switching costs go up and up as time goes on.

    I’ve found this with any vendor in the past and also with open source…which is why I’m such a huge fan of open formats. At least there’s a way to switch if something else is more strategic or needs (in the case of SaaS) to be brought in-house.

    My blogging provider for my little corner of the internet is a case in point. Though I could export all my posts, they’d come without the embedded images or any comments. Useful? Sort of. Not enough, however, to properly export all posts for archiving. Once started down a path, it’s really tough to switch.

    By the way, I’ve only just skimmed your paper but will read it when time allows over the next couple of days. Thanks for commenting!



About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Posts by Category

Archives (2004 – Present)

SiteGround is 'The One'

READ THIS PAGE to learn how and why I finally found "the one" web hosting company I heartily endorse and use, SiteGround, and why it is highly likely to be the perfect web hosting company for you.

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.