I Thought The Web Was The Platform

I remember the tagline for Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle‘s first web 2.0 conference.

Web 2.0 – "The Web As A Platform"

We’ve seen the definition of Web 2.0 change since then and become so hyped up that its borderline worthless as a term now.  But when I first saw that phrase, I really liked it and I still do.

So when I happened upon Jeremy Zawodny’s blog post on "Platforms, Mashups, and Markets", I read it three of four times to try to understand the point he was making.

Jeremy starts with mashups and observes (with the help of Greg Linden) that mashups may be nothing other than free R&D for the large portals.  Jeremy assets that the big guys will watch what you build on top of their platforms and copy the best of them.

Then Jeremy goes on to say that "The platform is what you must build today in order to create a new on-line market."

In the process of making this argument, he links to my post on an open market for online advertising.  Which doesn’t make much sense to me, because in that post I was not suggesting the creation of a new platform.

I believe the web is a platform. And that everything we need for an open ad market, or an open data archticture, or frankly most anything else, is available on the "web platform" today.

This may be nothing more than semantics, but when I hear people use the word "platform" I often think proprietary.  And I believe that "proprietary platforms" aren’t going to get us where we need to go.

A commenter in Jeremy’s post clearly identifies me in that camp and says:

This is not 1995, you need to have lot of IP (Entire IP Portfolio of
GYM) in order sustain as a business. Most of the web 2.0 companies are
noice in IMHO. Building a web platform is not an average startup model.
This is the model where VCs like Vinod Khoslas and John Doerrs of the
world will thrive and Others ( Like Fred Wilson of the world ) will
miss it because they wont see the value immediately. Iam yet to see a
company currently out in the market which can survive as a stand alone
business.

Being mentioned in the company of John Doerr and Vinod Khosla is always nice even if the point is that they are smart and recognize the value of IP and I do not.

It’s not that I don’t recognize the value of IP, its just that I don’t think IP is what this is all about. As Paul Graham said in his essay on Web 2.0:

Web 2.0 means using the web as it was meant to be used, and Google
does.  That’s their secret.  The web naturally has a certain grain,
and Google is aligned with it.  That’s why their success seems so effortless.  They’re sailing with the wind, instead of sitting 
becalmed praying for a business model, like the print media, or trying to tack upwind by suing their customers, like Microsoft and
the record labels.

Google doesn’t try to force things to happen their way.  They try to figure out what’s going to happen, and arrange to be standing
there when it does.  That’s the way to approach technology– and
as business includes an ever larger technological component, the
right way to do business.

It’s a great observation.  The Web is a Platform and you must build on top of it and you must be open and you must not try to lock people in.  If you do, you are eventually going to regret it.