Jeff Jarvis makes hundreds, if not thousands of great points in his book “What Would Google Do?”
Perhaps the most relevant point is about building a platform that others can build upon. It is what has created the seemingly unlimited success that Google has experienced through its “Maps” offering. Consider this: Maps is free, well maintained, can be embedded within a site with relative ease, and can be expanded upon and tailored to one’s liking through mashups. Marissa Mayer – Google’s VP of Search Products and User Experience stated “we think of our geo technologies as building a mirror onto the world.”
That said and as Jarvis accurately points out, by offering Maps for free – and allowing others to contribute to and make it better, Google effectively distributes this product at an almost incomprehensible pace while also mitigating the risk of competitor gains – by offering it at the lowest possible cost to the customer. Why would one possibly need to look elsewhere?
Jarvis credits this brilliance entirely, or largely to Google. However once upon a time there was a little known development entity up in Massachusetts known as “Iris Associates, Inc.” This was the development arm of Lotus Software prior to the IBM acquisition – founded and headed up by now Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie – the father of Lotus Notes. Lotus Notes was the first platform that I know of which did exactly what Jarvis so eloquently describes. Building upon the Lotus Notes platform, a developer was all-powerful – having the ability to leverage a world-class document management system and fully integrated communication tools – while also having the ability to rapidly develop and deploy secure workflow-enabled applications that were both scalable and globally accessible. To put this in perspective, the first release was in 1989. I believe the founders of Google were still in elementary school, the highest level of innovation at Microsoft (aside from the operating system) was the first release of its flagship word processor (Word 1.0), and Apple was working on NEXTSTEP 1.0!
The only deviation is that Notes was never free. However, the development platform always has been and still is. And there are a plethora of sites where one can go download any number of viable applications built upon this platform, or contribute to projects in centralized development portals.
Again, in order to use the Lotus Notes application an investment is required – consisting of at least a Lotus Domino server and – if not web-enabled, a number of CAL’s commensurate with the number of users in consideration.
Nonetheless, I believe that the argument can be made that Ray Ozzie is the father of the “open platform” concept.