For years and years we've been talking about the idea that the trick to "owning" the internet is to become the platform of the internet. It seemed like Google was moving in this direction when word of Google Base first leaked out, but the actual offering turned out to be a whole lot less. It was trying to be a product, not a platform. Yahoo has been slowly, slowly, slowly opening up APIs, but seems so worried to take the real plunge that it's almost too little to mention. It got to the point that we thought some of the more innovative stuff in terms of really being open was coming out of a tiny startup we had present at our Techdirt Greenhouse event over the weekend -- even knowing that such a small company faced a huge challenge trying to stand up against Google and Yahoo. In fact, Openomy's discussion question this weekend was focused around how could they compete against those two. Perhaps those guys from Chicago were looking in the wrong direction. Word is leaking out tonight that it's Amazon that's leading the way with the open platform. This isn't about storage, even though that's what most people will talk about. This is about being the file system and database on which web apps are built. That's much more powerful than just storage. Forget the head fake of Amazon getting into contextual advertising. Combine this announcement with the announcement a few months ago from Amazon subsidiary Alexa opening up their search platform, and start to imagine what developers could do if they can simply plug into an open online file system/database and an open search engine -- and then just build an app on top of that. It's like Amazon just provided much of the database and middleware someone might need to develop a web-based app. Of course, there's a lot of marketing that needs to be done between here and there, and convincing everyone to jump on that platform may not be easy (and who knows, the terms of service may be problematic). That's, in part, because people just don't think of Amazon in this way. However, if Amazon really can convince people that it's providing the basics they need to build the next generation of web apps, Amazon just became a much more interesting company -- not by copying Google and Yahoo, but by going beyond them and doing what both companies have yet to do. Update: Ian Sefferman from Openomy points out what Amazon got wrong, with the big one being that data is applications specific rather than user specific -- making it much more difficult to share the same data in multiple applications.
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