Talk about timing: Twitter confirms they’ve bought Meerkat-competitor Periscope, and but a few hours later Twitter makes a move that kills off a few Meerkat..
I wrote an email this morning to my Applico colleagues Nick Johnson and Alex Moazed who are writing a book on Platform Innovation, and how this Twitter move exemplifies Platform Power. Here’s the email:
It was only a matter of time. It took what, 2 weeks?
Nick/Alex, this is a VERY important concept to reflect in the book regarding platform power, and Twitter might be the most public/recent example of it.
A platform’s externalized innovation is like putting multiple lines (potentially, millions) of bait in the water, allowing them to get hooked, waiting to see which ones have the largest fish on the other end, and reeling those bad boys in for a fish fry. With externalized innovation, you are selling developers on the promise of “open APIs” (no centralized API is EVER open), reaping the benefit of those developers R&D and marketing $$$s, all while reserving the right to kill any idea that threatens the platform’s ability to collects rents for running the API itself. Time and time again, platforms have used this ability to muscle out would-be competitors under the guise of improving overall service via standardization and privacy protection when it is really just fear of competition. Platforms are notorious for having shifting-sands in their Terms of Service as a knee-jerk response to innovation threats (a great startup idea, btw. - tracking and annotating ToS changes for sites, like Genius does to rap lyrics).
In the case of Twitter, from a developer standpoint, the need here is to rotate not just the identity graph but also the taste graph (as indicated by who you choose to follow) to a decentralized service (like blockchain, for instance), and allow Twitter (among others) to build off of it rather than the other way around. My desire to follow Taylor Swift** is independent of the medium/platform where I follow her, hence I shouldn’t have to indicate this desire again across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Vine, Meerkat, Snapchat, etc. Tastes rotating across context is a key aspect of every evolutionary strategy - new uses for the same data. Meerkat exposed a gaping marketing hole in Twitter’s ToS. Commence with the wrist-slapping and fast-follow copycat innovation (Periscope) in 3, 2, …
All of this follows the axiom regarding most things internet related, “if you are not paying for the product, you ARE the product.”
** Please shake off any notion that I follow Taylor Swift.