March 5, 2009

Are Web Apps Commodities?

Filed under: Digital Distribution, Information Supernova — Robert John Ed @ 6:33 pm

That may seem like a bit of a silly question, but when you think about it, code is code.  It can be replicated (beyond IP stipulations) and used in the same manner.  It seems that the real important aspect of websites or applications (I’m speaking about anything, but I’m thinking about Twitter, big surprise, right?) are audiences.  What brings the audience?  First movers with valuable products (the apps) and brands that can hold.

Brands that can hold are always making the product better.  You see one time greats falling all the time.  Going back, Hotmail was number one for a very long time.  Then Gmail came along with a better product and stole share.  I didn’t even know what email was back when Hotmail was, well, hot.  Then I got a Hotmail account and used it for a long time, eventually though WOM took hold and I switched.  It’s a far superior system.  More recently, Myspace has lost out.  If you think about it, Myspace was positioned to own the social networking space with the buzz they built, hitting critical mass first and a HUGE user base.  Now, they aren’t hurting all too much, but I think it’s obvious now that Facebook has taken over.  It’s cleaner and in my opinion far more user friendly.  More important is that they are always attempting to make the product better, and their new changes sound like they may be trying to integrate Twitter like pieces.  It’s interesting.  But I don’t know if Facebook will ever be Twitter and I highly doubt vice versa.

The reason I bring this up is that Google CEO Eric Schmidt (learned this from Scripting) recently called Twitter email or some derivative.  Which made me think that Google could or is going to recreate the application on their own site.  The problem, of course, is that the first mover has a big advantage.  Especially if they continue to refine and better their products.  But ideas on the web can be taken in a heartbeat, so if you develop a web app, it has to be continually refined.  Regardless, apps all of a sudden seem like commodities.  The audiences that use the applications are the real precious resource.  Companies have to leverage those correctly in order to build properly.


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