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.