Oct 5

Marc Hedlund

Marc Hedlund

The First Web 2.0 Platform

I'm at the Launch Pad: A Dozen New Companies in One Sitting workshop at Web 2.0, and more than half of the companies have presented. I could have missed one, but I think every single one has demo'd Google Maps integration.

Some of these companies want to be a platform for Web developers, and good luck with that. There's only one successful Web 2.0 platform so far, though, and it's Google Maps. They've got the data, the APIs, the interface, and the developer community.

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Comments: 4

  Tim O'Reilly [10.05.05 05:29 PM]

Relevant to this discussion, there was also a session on Mashups, which featured many of these Gmaps based mashups. For the agenda for the session, see One of the pointers there was to a great site listing several hundred Google maps based mashups.

Yahoo! has a listing of Yahoo! maps mashups. Interesting that the gmaps site is a fan site, while the Y! one is at Yahoo!

  Caterina [10.06.05 12:07 PM]

It was great seeing all the new companies exhibiting there. You seen skeptical, however, of the ability for these companies to be successful as platforms.

How are you measuring success, and what are you calling platform? Certainly Google Maps is the de facto mashup feature on software released today, but Rollyo was built on Yahoo Search, the iCal and FedEx integrations in Zimbra were significant, and I have a particularly good view into the number of applications that are launching with Flickr data myself. :-) It seems more of an ecosystem than you're suggesting here.

What do you think is the secret sauce for garnering the love of the developer community? Is it largely driven by brand, as seems to be the case with Google?

  Marc Hedlund [10.06.05 03:12 PM]


I'm always skeptical of companies that want to build platforms. Platforms are hard! My "good luck with that" probably sounds more flip than I intended. I don't think there's anything about these companies that makes them less likely to succeed than any other; but building a platform on which other applications spring up and take on lives on their own is tough.

Take the examples of Ning and Jot, both of which want developers to make applications in their environment. I'm sure they can get people to play with their capabilities, but will either of them succeed in getting big businesses to grow on top of them? Will there be an Adobe of Jot? I'm not saying it couldn't happen, just that it is very hard to get the combination of users and opportunity and developers on the same path and with the same momentum.

Zimbra is using GMaps to make their application more valuable, and they probably will make sales based in part on their GMaps feature. Of course, as you say, they're also using other technologies as well, but the loudest applause was for the map that appears for each address in your email; and that feature is the same one we saw many other times during the session (while, say, FedEx integration was not).

I don't know the magic recipe for building a platform, but I wrote about my suggestions for platform-builders here. In that, of course the little guys and gals have a change: anyone does, if what they put out is sufficiently useful to enough other people. But scale -- existing users -- does make it easier for developers to have a bigger "market" (economic or otherwise). Google and Yahoo do have an advantage for building these application platforms: when you and they launch something, people immediately pay attention. Still, I don't think determines the outcome on its own.

I'd love to see some more of the applications that use the Flickr APIs, and I'll track you down to get a demo of your favorites. The ones I've seen so far are incredibly cool and fun (like the Flickr Rainbow app, and the Flickr Sudoku game), but I haven't seen ones where other businesses, say, are growing on top of Flickr yet. Show me! I'd love to see what you see.

  Alan Kelley [10.11.05 02:45 AM]

I think of eBay as the first Web 2.0 company, esp. in the sense of the "web as a platform" theme.

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