Copying Leads To Competition, Competition Leads To Innovation

from the the-spirit-of-progress dept

Marco Arment, the creator of the popular read-it-later tool Instapaper, has an excellent blog post discussing copying, innovation, and the best ways to react to competition. Arment discusses a new Instapaper competitor called Readability, which launched last week and received a lot of praise for including custom fonts, something Instapaper lacks:

I could have interpreted this defensively and complacently: “Georgia and Verdana are great, versatile, highly screen-readable fonts! I don’t need to do what competitors do! Newer isn’t always better! My crusty old fonts have some technical advantage that you don’t care about!” And so on.

That would have just made me look stubborn and out of touch, failing to understand (in fact, trying very hard not to understand) why newer fonts could be attractive to customers, and failing to admit that I should have done it first.

Instead, I’m taking this misstep as a wake-up call: I missed an important opportunity that’s necessary for the long-term competitiveness of my product. So I’ve spent most of the last week testing tons of reading fonts, getting feedback from designers I respect, narrowing it down to a handful of great choices, and negotiating with their foundries for inclusion into the next version of Instapaper. And the results in testing so far are awesome. I wish someone had kicked my complacent ass about fonts sooner.

Reacting well to competition requires critical analysis of your own product and its shortcomings, and a complete, open-minded understanding of why people might choose your competitors.

This is someone who understands how innovation and iteration really work. Interestingly, when Readability was announced last year, it had a different focus and was actually going to work in conjunction with Instapaper, but then it morphed into a direct competitor. At the time, other developers tried to shame them for that, but Arment himself was unsurprised and untroubled, saying "this is a very big and increasingly crowded market, and there’s no reason why we can’t respectfully share it."

He never tried to claim that copying was wrong or even unneighborly—not then, and not today. Arment clearly respects his competitors, recognizing what they bring to the table and using it as motivation to improve his own product. That's the mark of a true innovator.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 7:52am

    "Marco Arment, the creator of the popular read-it-later tool Instapaper"

    Actually,it's:

    "Marco Arment, the creator of the another way to copy others people's stuff"

    FTFY.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    ashley sheridan, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 7:54am

    Innovation leads to jealousy, jealousy leads to fear, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side.

     

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  3.  
    icon
    GMacGuffin (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 7:55am

    Comic Sans please.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    Trails (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    Grave Danger I Sense

    "Copying Leads To Competition, Competition Leads To Innovation"

    Innovation leads to Love, Love leads to Suffering, Suffering leads to Hatred and that is the path to the Darkside.

    Just proved copying evil, Leigh has.

    -Yoda

     

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  5.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:15am

    Re:

    All I see there is a better bookmarking service. I guess that's copying to some.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Nate, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:17am

    "a new Instapaper competitor called Readability, which launched last week"

    Nope. Readability launched an Android app last week; the service is 2 years old.

     

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  7.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:19am

    Re: Grave Danger I Sense

    Always loved Yoda's "slippery slope" arguments.

    Seriously, the way that guy tells it, everything leads to the dark side.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:25am

    Re:

    I love how you say 'copy' as if that word can only mean one thing.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:47am

    Re: Re:

    In this case, it's copy to another medium, and display it out of context. An interactive webpage loses it's value when it's captured and viewed without the interactivity.

    Basically, this guy is in the business of copying stuff, so yeah, he likes copying. The sun rises in the East too, Mike might have to write about that stunning news tomorrow too!

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:54am

    "Marco Arment, the creator of the popular read-it-later tool Instapaper"

    Actually,it's:

    "Marco Arment, the creator of the another way to copy others people's stuff"

    Actually,it's:

    "Something i couldnt do therefore i will moan about it"

    FTFY.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:54am

    Re: Re:

    And that one thing is always bad... except when corporations do it.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:54am

    Re:

    Nah. It really needs Papyrus!

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    Twit, it's not hard to make an offline reader. They have been around since about 10 minutes after the first browser existed. You could do it with a little bit of C and have a nice day ;)

    So if you are going to fix something, perhaps you can fix your crappy attitude.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 8:59am

    Sir/Madam, it's hard to make an offline reader.

    So if you are going to fix something, try not to be so negative.

    Good day.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Jeff, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:00am

    COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    Apple hates competition, and will sue you with patents if you copy. They want it alllllllllll.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It makes things easier to read. How dare a filthy reader have any power!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re:

    Speaking of crappy attitudes . . .

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:24am

    Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    Yet, Apple is incredibly innovative. Is that to say that innovation occurs without copying, that actual advances can come without slavishly copying other people's stuff, and then putting your own logo and paint color on it?

    Someone better call Masnick... he missed the boat again!

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    There's a word for all of this... it's called EVOLUTION. Not just evolution of a the technology either. Arment has developed an evolved MINDSET as well. And this ultimately will be the death of the Content Cartels, failure to evolve on all fronts.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    You are absolutely right. Apple never copies anything. The Xerox PARC UI that Jobs saw and inspired the Mac OS UI? That's just an Urban Legend. Jobs was apparently amused by with spreading the legend too since HE PERSONALLY TOLD THE STORY OF HOW THAT HAPPENED. Oh and the Diamond Rio? Apparently Apple must have asked them to give mp3 players a test run for them in the market before they bothered to start building iPods since they didn't copy that either?

    Really? What alternate reality did you come from?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, accountants have to depreciate the value of the interactive webpage every time the text is shifted to another format. You should see the margins on printable-views, they'd make your eyes bleed.

     

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  22.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:41am

    Re:

    I think you're failing to understand (in fact, trying very hard not to understand) copying, competition and innovation.

     

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  23.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:47am

    The man is insane!!!

    and a complete, open-minded understanding of why people might choose your competitors.

    But all you need to know is that all people who buy or use your products are filthy sneaky freetard thieves and there can't possibly be ANY other reason at all why ANY other product than what you, in your infinite wisdom and graciousness, choose to grudgingly give them should even be allowed to exist never mind being allowed to exist un-sued!!!!

    .........


    OOooooo that was wierd I suddendly came over all AAlternative reality.....

     

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  24.  
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    TDR, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:48am

    Trying to get a maximalist to understand copying and innovation is about as effective as trying to divide by zero. And it produces the same result.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    The one where they are called the Anti-Mike Masnick.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:51am

    Re: Re:

    It's really easy to do, that's why there are so many of them and they're all so well designed!

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:55am

    Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    It's funny and ironic because Apple is literally the modern posterchild for exactly the opposite of the point you're making. Their mantra has almost always been, copy but do it better than the original.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    Actually most of Apple's products are copies from someone else. The innovation is how they were redesigned.

     

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  29.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re: Re:

    An interactive webpage loses it's value when it's captured and viewed without the interactivity.


    Actually, an interactive webpage quite often gains value when it's captured and viewed without the interactivity. Interactivity is not always desirable, depending on usage context, and more importantly, it's often very badly done so that it actually degrades the usefulness of the page.

     

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  30.  
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    Trails (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    Actually, it's:

    "Gugliemo Marconi, the creator of an evil way to steal our vocal properties and funnel them overseas for, like, ad revenue or something! EVIL!!!!"

    FTFY

     

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  31.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    It's funny and ironic because Apple is literally the modern posterchild for exactly the opposite of the point you're making.
    Actually I'm not sure you're completely correct there. I have a suspicion that in troll-speak "innovative" actually means "vastly profitable and litigious" or possibly "prettier and shinier than everyone elses version of the same thing".

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas"

    Steve Jobs 1996

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    darryl, Mar 17th, 2012 @ 2:54am

    copying REMOVES competition and innovation

    Copying Leads To Competition, Competition Leads To Innovation

    REALLY !!!!

    lets think about his for a second (first time for you)..

    So you copy a popular movie (for example), how does that lead to increased competition ?

    You have not created a competing product, how does making a copy of "star wars" create something that competes with star wars ?

    you've created nothing, (and certainly no innovation), and you have not CREATED ANYTHING that could possibly considered as a competing product.

    but if you were to create a product (another movie) called "top gun", then you have created a competing product.

    Copying does NOT increase the number of (different) products, therefore does not increase competition.

    how is making a copy of a movie, from a limited selection of movies (that have allready been made) going to increase innovation ? (except innovation to stop the theft of product).

    copying REMOVES competition, and restricts innovation, you should know that, and so should masnick, you will NEVER admit it though.. Just shows how little thought you have given these subjects, I guess.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2012 @ 3:01am

    Re: Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    he said "ideas" no implementation, huge difference.

    A great idea is to put an accounting spreading sheet on computers, the implimentation of that idea is Access, or whatever the freetards use as their version.

    A great idea is sending mail over the internet, (Email), the implementation is the method of how you achieve that.

    Making a copy of how someone else implements an idea is theft... implementing your own product on an idea is how the world works.

    it's why we have patents, and copyrights and the like, it is to protect the implementation of the idea, but not the idea itself.

    It's really quite simple, unless you OD'ed on the Masnick coolaid.

     

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  35.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 17th, 2012 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    I guess that's why you're so happy whenever someone is sued for copying an idea, not the implementation.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2012 @ 4:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    why do you think I would be either happy or sad about someone being sued for copying an idea ?

    what they are really doing is copying the implementation of that idea not the idea itself.

    Im sure you are able to show me at least one example of what you are saying, then possibly explain why someone (anyone) or me would be happy or not about that example ?

     

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  37.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Re: Grave Danger I Sense

    Seriously, the way that guy tells it, everything leads to the dark side.

    It's a game! Peanut butter sandwiches. Go!

     

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  38.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 5:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    A great idea is to put an accounting spreading sheet on computers, the implimentation of that idea is Access, or whatever the freetards use as their version.

    A side point, but I believe you're thinking of Excel, since Access is not a spreadsheet program (also not a spreading sheet, whatever that is). Oh, and Excel is not the implementation of the idea, but just one of them, and not the first.

     

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  39.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 21st, 2012 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: COMPETITION? NUUUUUU

    The first spreadsheet was VisiCalc which everyone pretty much copied and improved on since then, even Microsoft.

    And we freetards may use LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

    And in the coding world, by the way, the code is protected by copyright. The idea, as you say isn't. Which is why there are is a small flock of spreadsheets about these days.

    So you get to code yourself a spreadsheet if it's not a direct steal of the code of what you're basing it on.

    Access was a communications program and a dog at that. Now, if I remember correctly, it's a database included in Office.

    Anyway, it would be nice if you knew about copyright and how it affects programming.

    As for software patents, far, far too often the DO protect the idea (i.e. One Click patent) rather than the implementation of that idea.

    I'd go on but you're stuck in a mindset glued together with SuperGlue so I don't think I can pry it apart.

     

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