December 19th, 2011
The implementation of PageRank was a watershed moment in technology that showed us one thing – how naturally occurring data could be used to create an amazingly good score, and thus Crowdsourcing was born. Next up (many years later) was the YouTube (which was a Google acquisition, not an in house technology), but gelled pretty well with their crowdsourcing mentality. Next up (which took much longer to pull about), was the Android, which allowed Google to slowly penetrate a very crowded (no pun intended) cellphone market, again using the power of crowdsourcing. In this however, it had a clear precedent – Apple, although an amazingly unlikely proponent, had basically invented the app market concept for the cellphones, using the very successful iPhone app stores. Google was the one to realize that no matter how sophisticated your cellphone and OS is (BlackBerry), a crowd of spaghetti beats one strong rope, and further, crowdsourcing can only be competed with crowdsourcing. That competition between iOS and Android still goes on, and each of them tries to make their product sticky, by making people dependent not only on the device, but also on the myriad applications that those devices support. Now, BlackBerry is supposed to be coming up with its even better OS, but I wonder how much difference it can make, considering that their OS was already the best one, in terms of robustness and OS level functionality. Where it got beat was simply by millions of apps, and that is where it clearly has a catch up role to play. How should it plan to compete with Android (or iOS) where millions of dedicated developers are writing interesting applications, and people are writing tutorials and books on how to create those interesting applications?
This idea of using naturally occurring data (or capabilities, if abstracted at one level) is not limited to cellphone market only. Examples abound in many other vertices. For examples, one of the reasons that NX CCS is so successful in integrating logistics data is that it simply uses the data that already exists – bills of lading, shipping notices, tracking information etc. Similarly, the success of TripIt is largely attributable to the fact that they simply use the reservation confirmations that already existed before their product came about. This idea itself can be considered an important ingredient in product stickiness – how much of what the product needs to work already exists? If the answer to that is, not so much, then clearly the idea or the product will have a shorter adoption cycle.