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Monday, September 17, 2007

The Maturing Internet Platform Conundrum

Mark Cuban recently wrote, The Internet is dead and boring, while no doubt the underlying technologies of the web are are in a stable mode and unlikely to radically change in the near future. While we ait for http 3 or IPVx, the world ought to realise that a lot of additional value can come out of what we currently loosely define as the internet platforms. Some of them are the the modern wonders of the world

This is an excellent piece coming as it is from Marc Andreessen: The three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet. The platforms of the future will be online services that you will tap into over the Internet, perhaps with nothing more running locally than a browser. They won't have anything you download, or even an SDK. They will look more like services than software .
Unlike the enterprise system with allows at best extension through API’s, internet platforms are more amenable. Here comes the gradation( level 1 to above they are harder to build but easier for the developer:
Level 1 is typically a platform provided in the form of a web services API - which will typically be accessed using an access protocol such as REST or SOAP.

Level 2 apps historically has been used in end-user applications to let developers build new functions that can be injected, or "plug in", to the core system and its user interface- Photoshop, Facebook fall into this category. The technical expertise and financial resources required of a Level 2 platform's developer intending to build a meaningful app - are very high.

In a Level 3 platform, the huge difference is that the third-party application code actually runs inside the platform - developer code is uploaded and runs online, inside the core system. The platform itself handles everything required to run your application on your behalf. The level of technical expertise required of someone to develop on your platform drops by at least 90%, and the level of money they need drops to $0. Which opens up development to a universe of people for whom developing on a Level 2 or Level 1 platform is prohibitively difficult or expensive. Level 3 platforms are "develop in the browser" - or, more properly, "develop in the cloud".

And which companies are working on Level 3 platforms, besides Marc's Ning?
• Salesforce.com
• SecondLife
• Amazon (through AWS)
• Akamai

For the avid value digger, the advice is to look for the new applications that a new platform makes possible. In the long run, all credible large-scale Internet companies will provide Level 3 platforms. Those that don't won't be competitive with those that do, because those that do will give their users the ability to so easily customize and program as to unleash supernovas of creativity.

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