Strategy for the next revolution November 26, 2008Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, digital strategy, strategy, technology, web 2.0.
Tags: Facebook, Facebook Connect, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Social network
At the risk of this becoming a Fred Wilson love-in, I’m catching up on my unread items and he mentioned a conference coming up focused solely on creating add-ons for browsers. I’m a BIG fan of add-ons that make it easier for what I’m trying to do – as I’ve said before this revolution we’re going through is based around making it easier for the majority to express themselves (which is subsequently why there are now businesses around organising information – see what we did?).
What is happening in this space though is people are harnessing the notion of the web as the platform and getting away – slowly but surely), from operating systems as we knew them.
The moves that Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have been making though are ones towards the inevitable (and closer than you think) point where there is no such thing as an offline experience. At that point the browser is the experience, with different plugins and views for different things (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.).
Where we’re also headed is the recovery of our personal data away from the social networks and back to a central repository, one we are in control of. I wrote the following for Marketing back in May this year:
(Facebook are) desperately trying to maintain hold on user data, under the daft assumption it was somehow their’s to play with in the first place.
That idea, and the moves MS, Google and Mozilla are making, brings the online experience back to the user, it takes the data back to the source, rather than downstream where it currently resides. Facebook exists as a repository for personal data, wrapped up in a layer of communications software that shares it with your friends. Nothing more, nothing less. Facebook gambled – and rightfully so – on that information being worth something; they’ve made a fundamental mistake though in attempting to build a business around something they do not own or control: your information.
So, in playing the game of would-be gate-keeper, distracting you long enough with werewolf bites and status updates, Facebook are trying to build a profitable business around supplying access to the owners of the information.
…stop me if you’ve heard this one…
Meanwhile, people innovating in the browser space are building out their own platforms – ones that exist at a pre-site level. By doing this, they will tap the water supply at the source and not down-stream, and while yes we will still be the ones handing over the information, they know we need software to facilitate interaction with the web, that isn’t changing any time soon.
Facebook’s strategic advantage could be in opening up its system and allowing people to build Facebook applications that reside in the browser and not on their website. But in order to do that, they have to make some fundamental shifts in strategy and philosophy, and move from a siloed-mentality, the kind that built businesses in the 90’s, to an open one – the kind that builds businesses today. They have the scale, what I doubt they have is the will to become, almost overnight, one of the largest publishers of web applications on the planet and give a massive boost to the fledgling economies of browser plug-ins. In Facebook Connect they half-heartedly attempted to extend the reach of their platform beyond their own domain, and it plays like it is: an attempt to be a little bit open, but not too much.
Meanwhile companies like Zemanta, and like Adaptive Blue with Glue, are building businesses for the next revolution by creating technologies that do not require something as decidedly old-fashioned as a website to exist. Indeed they more than anyone recognise there is limited value in pushing a destination, but endless value in pushing content.
As soon as the hardware conversation goes away, the website-as-destination will quickly follow as we embrace the distributed web. So too, I imagine, the gross over-valuation that came and went with everyone’s favourite social network.
This year’s one anyway.