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How Software Platforms Evolve

This essay:

http://www.synthesist.net/writing/software_platforms.html

makes a great follow-on to Ray Ozzie's old essay on platforms:

http://www.ozzie.net/blog/stories/2002/09/24/softwarePlatformDynamics.html

In particular, this quote should get this hive buzzing:

"New platform efforts that set out to be highly modular or deeply object-oriented from day one are doomed to fail, because they are recognized as being vulnerable to cloning by potential ecosystem members and are consequently not adopted because of their lack of business potential. Truly useful standards always come after the fact, and often without a formal standardization process. Successful platforms ossify, leaving standardized patterns of information in their wake."

In context, Stutz seems to be talking about putting your focus on building a good user-focused application before building a platform, but it's a pretty provocative way to say it! But I guess that it makes sense -  why would anyone invest heavily in building a platform that can't be defended from the competition?

Ray Ozzie for President in '04
Thursday, March 25, 2004

We know it's you, Ray.

Ron
Thursday, March 25, 2004

"...why would anyone invest heavily in building a platform that can't be defended from the competition?"

Because Windows beat Apple.  Because Unix beat Lisp.  Because the web beat Push.

Assuming "defended from the competition" is synonymous with "patended and copyrighted as a means of becoming the only game in town," the reason is because if your interface is friendler, people will use it.  It's the Unix vs. Lisp philosophy, it doesn't have to be beautiful or perfect, that can be fixed; it just has to work.

I need to, and will, read the links you provided, but here's a link of my own regarding platform evolution:

http://www.shirky.com/writings/evolve.html

Andrew Burton
Thursday, March 25, 2004

So the (classic!) Shirky essay supports the original post?

"Successful platforms ossify, leaving standardized patterns of information in their wake."

I read the Shirky thing as being about decentralization, rather than about business strategy. As a business strategy, it strikes me as being pretty dotcom-ish. But I'm still getting over the Unix beat LISP thing.

Still waiting for LISP
Thursday, March 25, 2004

I'm still trying to synthesize and digest the first link, but it seems to say, to me, right now, that "good enough" allows room to grow, room to adapt, room for modification.  Shirky, to me, seems to say that systems that are "good enough," that work, are loose and modifiable get adopted.

I don't know if they agree, but they appear to have a couple of parallels.

Andrew Burton
Thursday, March 25, 2004

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