in tech

Your service should be like a bazaar

I’ve been reading a lot of LaunchTicker. For those who don’t know, it’s a service by Angel investor Jason┬áCalacanis where news is aggregated and placed in a platter for you to consume, no added commentary or blogger ideology attached. Interested? Check it out here – LaunchTicker Live

The reasons why I like LaunchTicker are many, but the one that comes near the top is that I get to see what’s on the mind of @jason. He comments on many of the topics posted on the ticker and that gives me an insight into the thinking that one needs to develop towards tech. One of his recent comments, which sparked this blog post is –

Craigslist is blocking Google Borg the same way Naver did in Korea–and how Google advises you too: no robots on your site. If you don’t want to give up your already-at-scale market you *should* do what CL and Twitter are doing. Locking down access is best for shareholders of the company, but obviously it stunts innovation. This is the new founder conundrum: protect the castle or create a booming bazaar/marketplace.

I started thinking about this topic and realized that while Jason’s right about locking down access to appease your shareholders, the whole concept of a closed system means that someone somewhere on the outside of your Ecosystem will be driving innovation.

Let’s look at the example that Jason gives. A new founder needs to think about whether (s)he wants to protect her castle to appease the rich owners sitting inside it or do they want to open all the gates and allow the common folks to pass through uninhibited. History tells us that closed castles have a drawback – you can’t really see what someone is building outside. So, if you’ve locked yourself in the castle, you can’t see if someone is building a bigger or a better one outside. Tech history tells us of Microsoft, who, startled by the growth of the Internet, tried to attack Netscape in every possible manner but failed. Also, MySpace couldn’t see Orkut and Facebook taking charge. In today’s context, Apple is both a boon for developers building out apps and a bane because of it’s closed platform model. It has lost out on a lot of fights, specifically in the social network domain because of this outlook.

I believe that you should be building an open bazaar, where people will come happily and pay you a small fee (in terms of hosting/advertising fee) to advertise their wares to the people. They will gladly build on top of what you’ve given them and create even more value for you and your precious investors. Jason is right about what Google says – your product is your own, don’t let a search engine steal it. But if your product is innovation itself, why do you want to lock it down and let someone else over take it?

Circling back, Jason needed LaunchTicker as a service for himself to get the latest tech and product news without any nonsense or advertising. If it had remained a closed idea, it would be just that. But by opening it to the common public and letting people comment on things, Jason built something of a lot more value, with a lot of contributions by many anonymous tipsters, yours truly included. That is the power of an open platform.