Thu, Apr 29th 2010 4:58pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 29th 2009 1:17pm
from the playing-the-what-if-game dept
Would Microsoft have distributed Microsoft Office rivals such as SmartSuite or WordPerfect Office via its app store?And it goes on from there. Fun thought experiment if you're one of the believers that Apple's closed iPhone system is somehow "good" for innovation.
Well, maybe, in theory at least-after all, it doesn't sell Microsoft Office as part of Windows, so it couldn't use the "it duplicates functionality that's already in the product" excuse. Call me a cynic, though, but I suspect that competitive office suites would have run into trouble if Microsoft had controlled all Windows software distribution. And hey, didn't WordPerfect duplicate features in Notepad?
How about Netscape Navigator?
When Netscape first appeared in 1994, the current version of Windows (3.11) didn't have a browser. Even Windows 95 didn't have one at first--Internet Explorer was part of the extra-cost Plus Pack. Then again, Windows 95 did ship with the dreadful client for the original version of MSN, a proprietary online service which definitely did compete with the Web. That might have been reason enough for Microsoft to nix Navigator for duplicating Windows functionality. And once IE was part of Windows, Microsoft could have given Navigator the boot retroactively.
Safari? Firefox? Chrome?
They all appeared long after Windows got a browser as standard equipment. No, no, and no.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 20th 2009 9:18pm
from the closed-vs.-open dept
Where this gets trickier is that the open solutions are almost always substandard to the closed solutions initially. In some ways, this is by design. The closed solution is often much cleaner and slicker, and so it gets a lot of the initial use. But, overtime, the limitations of the closed solutions become increasingly clear, and as people bump up against those limits, frustrations increase, and more and more effort is put towards making the open solutions better -- even to the point that eventually they exceed the closed solution. It's a messy process, but the point where momentum shifts is often a subtle one, and the proprietors of the closed solution usually don't recognize it's a problem until way too late.
I believe that's the case with the App Store. The iPhone itself did an amazing job pushing the state of the mobile phone/portable computer market forward. There are some people who like to mock it as nothing special, but that's unfair. The device itself was a huge leap forward in demonstrating what a phone could be, and many others are just starting to grasp what this means more than two years after the original was introduced. That said, we're seeing more and more evidence concerning frustrations on the limits imposed by Apple's closed system, such as the arbitrary rejections of apps.
James points us to a worthwhile post from an iPhone developer, noting how the process is getting to the point where it's less and less worth it to develop for that platform. You have to put in a ton of work, and then you have to wait for quite a while just to get the app approved (or rejected), and the whole process is quite arbitrary. With that in mind, developers have a lot less certainty, and it shows a growing interest in other platforms.
To date, admittedly, such alternatives really haven't been very good. There are other app stores (some more open than others), but none has really been able to build up much traction yet on other devices. But there's a huge opportunity here if someone else can make this happen (or, if there were a way to standardize across some of the competitors) and start doing a better job serving both developers and consumers. The closed solution helps define the initial market -- but the open solution almost always wins in the long run.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 4th 2009 1:57pm
from the what-happened-to-openness dept
Well, not exactly. It seems that Facebook is hamstrung due to its own setup. Because the initial purpose of Facebook was for private updates between friends, making that data public is a huge no-no, and so it took just a couple days before the useful app was shut down, noting that it could violate user privacy. Since Facebook has been a punching bag over privacy issues for a while, this is no surprise. If you had a friend's status updates in your news feed, and he or she had set them to be viewable only by certain people, converting them into a public RSS feed does have potential privacy implications.
That makes sense from a privacy standpoint, but it shows why it will be quite difficult for Facebook to "become Twitter." Its entire setup is in many ways the anti-Twitter. Twitter was designed, on purpose, to be extremely public and open, and that's how people use it. Facebook, however, with its fine-grained privacy controls and focus on personal communication only between people who agree to communicate with each other is pretty limited in how much it can open up. The more it tries to become like Twitter, the more its own setup gets in the way. The app to make your Facebook news feed into an RSS feed is quite useful... but it can't work with Facebook's privacy settings the way things are set up today. Of course, some might point out that an individual could just as easily take their own Facebook news feed and republish it publicly using the time-tested method known as "cut-and-paste." Realistically speaking, creating an RSS feed is really not all that different than just cutting and pasting the info directly. The issue isn't so much privacy policies, as the user's individual decision over what to do with the info, though, Facebook would probably note that the automated push-button nature of the Newsfeed RSS app is the problem.
Either way, beyond just demonstrating the general differences between Twitter and Facebook, this also shows how legacy decisions, which make all the sense in the world at one point in a service's development, can significantly hinder certain changes later on.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 5th 2008 4:41pm
from the just-a-suggestion dept
Just a reminder that it's easy to say you're open -- but if you're not really open, someone's going to call you on it.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Sep 29th 2008 3:35pm
from the how-dare-they! dept
If Thomson Reuters execs actually thought about this, they would realize that Zotero actually makes EndNote more valuable by making the output more valuable. As long as Thomson Reuters is willing to keep adding more and better features, then it should have nothing to worry about from Zotero, who only enhances the value of EndNote's output. Instead, Thomson Reuters is using the old claim of felony interference with a business model to shut down a university-produced open competitor. Thomson Reuters' claims make this quite clear, in saying that Zotero is "destroying the EndNote customer base." Back here, in the real world, most people call that competition and think it's a good thing, rather than against the law.
by Timothy Lee
Wed, Jul 2nd 2008 12:48pm
from the no-worries dept
Ars Technica reviews Jonathan Zittrain's new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. Zittrain is by all accounts a smart guy and an engaging speaker, and it sounds like his book makes a lot of worthwhile points about the importance of open, "generative" technologies. But I just can't get worked up about Zittrain's warnings that the dominance of open systems is a fragile, temporary thing. It seems to me that there's a basic tension at the heart of Zittrain's argument. On the one hand, he argues (correctly in my view) that open platforms are better for innovation because of their lower barriers to entry. On the other hand, he wants us to believe that despite that inherent advantage, open technologies are on the brink of being eclipsed by closed platforms like the iPhone.
I think this misses a couple of important points. In the first place, I think Zittrain draws the wrong lessons from history. Zittrain himself notes that until the 1990s, the world was full of proprietary networking technologies and computing platforms that had big advantages over open technologies like TCP/IP, Unix, and the mostly-open PC platform. Open technologies had a few advantages of their own -- most notably government support of TCP/IP -- but open platforms were definitely the underdogs in many respects. And then, of course, the open platforms utterly destroyed the closed ones. Almost everyone now uses TCP/IP, while AOL is now little more than a mediocre website. Virtually all desktops and laptops -- including Macs and a lot of Unix workstations -- now largely share a common architecture. And almost every operating system not made by Microsoft is built on some versian of Unix.
Zittrain would have us regard all of this as some kind of fluke or lucky break, that the whole thing could come crashing down at any minute. But I think it's evidence that better technologies tend to win out in the marketplace. TCP/IP beat out AOL and other proprietary services precisely because open architectures enable more innovation. And once an open architecture comes to dominate a given market, it becomes harder, not easier for a proprietary product to displace it, because network effects create tremendous intertia on behalf of established open standards. I'm hard pressed to come up with any examples of a well-established open standard getting displaced by a closed one. Rather, what tends to happen is that new, proprietary technologies tend to get built on top of open ones. The top layers of the iPhone software stack may be closed, but it's built on TCP/IP, HTTP, and a host of other open standards.
It doesn't, therefore, make sense to view the iPhone as a threat to "generativity." The iPhone itself may not be "generative," but it's built on the same open standards as more open devices. That means that growing the iPhone market is a net positive for openness overall. True, people who buy an actual iPhone aren't getting the full advantage of generativity, but they are helping to further entrench TCP/IP and the web, platforms on which other more generative technologies can thrive alongside the iPhone. Moreover, if Zittrain is right that open platforms promote more innovation, which I think he is, then we should expect the same thing to happen at the top of the stack as happened at lower layers of the stack: over time, open mobile platforms like Android should enjoy more innovation than closed platforms like the iPhone, and the former should gradually displace the latter. Consumers tend to choose more open platforms over time not because consumers care about "generativity," per se, but because they want the phone with the best software, and open platforms tend to get the best software over time. And smart companies will tend to open up their platforms over time, lest competitors leapfrog them with a more open product. Indeed, as Mike pointed out a few days ago, that's already happening with Nokia's decision to open source its Symbian operating system.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 1st 2008 8:02pm
from the seriously? dept