Don’t bet your company on one platform

There has been a lot of recent conversation about services built on top of a platform, and the problems that follow when that platform changes its strategy. Or in the case of Craigslist, when they remain stuck with their strategy of not becoming a platform.

Companies change their strategy all the time. The problem is when you exclusively rely on one platform to build the foundation of your service, and that platform no longer sees services like yours as useful. Or worse, it starts seeing such services as harmful.

I have always been suspicious of platforms. Especially platforms that are giving away a lot. I keep on thinking – there is no free lunch. It is why I never buy things on sale – I am sure there is a catch.

What this means for SlideShare is that we work with all the platforms that make sense but don’t rely on any particular one. Yes, we build on top of Twitter, on top of Facebook, and Google Plus. And we were on the LinkedIn platform way before the acquisition. But we balance our efforts on all of them and don’t rely too heavily on any one of them.

I also deeply believe in the web as a platform. And we make sure that SlideShare’s core foundation is built on the web as a platform rather than any of these individual platforms.

A few years ago, I remember talking to entrepreneurs building apps on the Facebook platform and admiring their steep growth curves. Our growth curve was not too shabby, but it was nowhere near as heady as a Facebook app climbing the Appdata charts can be.

Of course, a few months down the road, the same Facebook or Twitter apps came crashing down when Facebook decided to change its design or Twitter changed its attitude.

I have seen a lot of posts about whether to build on top of platforms or not. I simply want to point out that the answer does not need to be either rely completely on a platform or not. There is a third way – where you rely partially on multiple platforms.

15 responses to “Don’t bet your company on one platform

  1. All of it fundamentally bowls down to P/PC balance as Stephen Covey mentions. Relying on a platform to uplift PC and then maintaing that ‘P’, making sure that denominator is not too skewed is significantly important.

  2. You don’t buy things on sale?

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  14. I’m going to interpret Covey, which is probably a mistake on my party, but the example that I remember him giving was that of ‘Windows.’ I can feel sure that he meant to say the propriety platform owned by Microsoft, yes, the software giant of Redmond, Washington.

    In a software-oriented business, a Windows (Linux, Apple, etc.) platform investment is a heavy commitment. Making a policy decision to rely chiefly on some web service (e.g., twitter) is not as world-altering as depending on a specific environment (which can be considered as a subset of “platform”).

    I think some lessons still apply to your argument, though (I hesitate to say anything is wrong since so much depends on perception). Many people want to “stick with the winner,” choosing the market leader apart from the rest. I’m guilty of that to a certain extent: I was a proponent of the Motorola chip that Apple used, even though I continued to write for Microsoft platforms (which favoured the Intel platforms at that time). I like what Apple has done for portability between platforms (and even “environments,” e.g., OS/X). But I continue to use a Microsoft platform.

    Why? Because I’m very sure that for the predictable future (no matter what my professional grumblings may be) that Microsoft will hold market share and my prospective clients will continue to build their systems on it. My personal opinion is something for me to use in those quite moments at home when I smile as I develop yet another Linux application for my own amusement.

  15. I agree with your observation fully on the issue. Actually, there is an old saying which cautions of placing all your eggs in one basket. The warning is still valid and equally applicable for the present context. Thank you for your wise counselling.
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