Platform vendors in love

A picture named vendor.gifJackson Brown wrote Lawyers In Love, a prophetic song.

Corporations and love don’t mix. But platforms are all about love, you can see it in Marco Arment’s plea for fairness from Apple, the platform vendor behind the iPad. Marco’s act of iPad love, Instapaper, is wonderful, a gift for Apple.

In the analogy of platform vendors and developers, Instapaper is a healthy baby. But Apple, the father of the platform, is confused, it can’t decide if it’s really not a mother. This is the confusion that comes when platforms have vendors who are corporations.

Much better if the platform vendor is a void. If you look for control and find none. The Internet is the only such platform in the tech world. And it’s the only platform that works. Finding a platform with a platform vendor that works long-term is as impossible as finding Jackson Brown’s lawyer-in-love. We all want to find one, dear, but they just don’t exist.

You see Fred Wilson, who is a board member of Twitter, telegraph their intention to assume the markets of several of their developers. In this case it was a mistake for Twitter to ever see their product as a platform. It’s a mistake they will withdraw from, gradually, having already kept for itself the juiciest APIs. This is the same problem Marco is having with Apple. And the same problem twitpic and bit.ly, and probably a few others, will soon have with Twitter.

I’ve spent most of my career studying the relationship between developers and platform vendors, on all sides — as a user, as a vendor and as a developer. There’s no way around these problems, other than to do away with the vendors. That works, but the vendors won’t go for it, of course. smile

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