Monday, January 02, 2006

Tootin' my own horn

This blog was quoted in ZDNet today. Yep, I'm humbled to have been quoted. It was in regards to my comments on the, hopefully, soon to be released P2P extension for Firefox, AllPeers.

Update: To elaborate on what was said in the article (would've done this earlier, but I was on my way out the door when I saw the quote), I do think a P2P application of some sort has the potential to greatly expand Firefox's market share. Why?

Let's face it, many of the extensions for Firefox are nice (I use a bunch), but they aren't all that compelling to make most users switch from IE. The so-called "killer app" or "killer extension" so far has not materialized. With IE7 coming with many of the basic features of a standard Firefox release, what is going to make an IE user want to switch to Firefox (I know, other than security issues and open source politics - both of which are strong motivators for myself, but apparently not for 85% of the users)? In order to continue to grow, Firefox is going to need more functionality that further differentiates itself from IE.

This is where P2P comes in. There are several things that the web is very good at. One is providing information. Another is providing community. The success of P2P software, including BitTorrent, is that it provides a tool around which a community can interact. File sharing - legal and otherwise - is a very popular community event. Having that functionality as an extension of Firefox would provide a seamless experience for a tool that provides access to information (via a browser) and community (via the P2P).

Look at other areas on the web where community has been a successful part of the economics. Slashdot, Digg, Flickr, Del.icio.us, and others have all been built around economies of scale that have come together thanks to tools that provided the basis for growth of a community. Slashdot builds community through a message board on technology issues. Digg takes that a step further and allows the user to vote on the important or cool stuff on the web. Del.icio.us allows the sharing and searching of information through bookmarks. Flickr allows the tagging and sharing of photos. Hell, even Amazon is adding tags to it's reviews and has expanded their search engine. Wikipedia, despite the recent publicity, has been very successful in using community to build a quality product.

With community comes a market. With a market comes market share. With that comes greater means to generate income and interest. The economics of this is that a snowball effect is created for the products and that can translate into revenue streams.

Is P2P the killer app that creates the snowball effect and creates a greater market share for Firefox? Time will tell. It certainly has the potential. And, if that happens, Microsoft should better watch out. They haven't done community particularly well in their web browser. There is a part of the company that doesn't want to take chances because other parts of the company have interests that conflict with each other. P2P, for instance, conflicts with oft stated DRM (Digital Rights Management) goals. Yet, if Firefox has some semblance of this and Microsoft does not answer that competitive edge, then Firefox is bound to build market share.

A valid point was made in the ZDNet article that we haven't actually seen the AllPeers product yet. As the blogger pointed out Allpeers could be vaporware and that could hurt Firefox. I don't agree that there would be much, if any harm, but I do worry that it will be vaporware. Worse yet, it could be poorly implemented or have major security holes and none of this hype would be justified. Still, obviously there is interest in seeing this happen. If Allpeers fails, then someone else should step into the gap. Bringing community together is too important a step to be ignored in supporting this browser. Firefox has been marketed by community. It was launched by community support. It has been sustained by it and it's future lies in the growth of that community. What better way that facilitating communication and sharing in that community?

2 comments:

Matthew Gertner said...

You're right that Firefox is lacking a "killer app" at present. What I generally say is that AllPeers adds viral propagation dynamics to Firefox. Right now, people recommend Firefox to their friends out of ideology, which has its limits. Giving people a real practical reason to encourage others to install Firefox (i.e. so that they can share files with them) is an important way to drive adoption beyond what has been achieved up until now.

B.D. said...

Quite correct. "Viral" was the word I was looking for. Thank you.

A poster on the ZDNet site scoffed noting that there is nothing new in AllPeers' technology. While true, the writer doesn't explain what exactly was new about Skype, Flickr, Del.icio.us, Last.fm, or Digg. The answer is "nothing". All they did was present it in such a way that users could take it and build a community with it. A viral economics.

Thinking about this further last night, this is very similar to a pre-Internet marketing campaign. MCI's Friends and Family program was hugely successful. While not offering new tools, they were offering discounts. The catch was viral marketing. They used the savings as the initial draw, but it was the viral economics that caused it to be a huge success.