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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Benevolent Corporation - No User Lock-In

Dare Obasanjo, one of the top bloggers at Microsoft posted an interesting piece on Social Software as the Platform of the Future last year. I just saw it on this populicio.us aggregator, which is why I am posting about it one year later. Here are some of the thoughts on Dare's post.

To me there are five broad classes of social software. There is software that enables

1. Communication (IM, Email, SMS, etc)
2. Experience Sharing (Blogs, Photo albums, shared link libraries such as
del.icio.us)
2. Discovery of Old and New Contacts (
Classmates.com, online personals such as Match.com, social networking sites such as Friendster, etc)
4. Relationship Management (
Orkut, Friendster, etc)
5. Collaborative or Competitive Gaming (MMORPGs, online versions of traditional games such as Chess & Checkers, team-based or free-for-all First Person Shooters, etc)


I would include a class that I believe is the number one business application of social software and an important part for consumers as well - Project Management. Integrating that into the social software platform would be very useful.

Many people will admit that the reason they can not migrate from a platform is due to the fact that they have data tied to that platform they do not want to give up. For the most part on Windows, this has been local documents in the various Microsoft Office formats.

I recently blogged about the lock-in caused by Microsoft Office and the senseless billions we waste because of this Microsoft engineered lock-in.

Lock-in based on office document formats can't last forever and I suspect that within the next five more years it will cease to be relevant.

It's good to see that a key Microsoft employee sees an end to this destructive Office lock-in.

The interesting thing about the rise of social software is that this data lock-in is migrating from local machines to various servers on the World Wide Web. At first the battle for the dominant social software platform will seem like a battle amongst online portals.

(The above quote actually came before the end of office lock-in quote.) It is sad that Dare just hopes to replace one form of lock-in with another. Although lock-in is the key to corporate success measured strictly in dollars, it does not benefit the customers the corporation is supposed to serve. Google and Yahoo are no better than Microsoft in regard to their lock-in intention although they currently own a much less substantial piece of the lock-in pie.

What we really need is some group of Silicon Valley millionaires to decide they already have enough money (let's pick $5+ million for argument's sake) and decide that they are going to build a company that will really serve their customers interest first. And their rallying cry will be No User Lock-in.

They'll build a platform, that's useful, open, interoperable and portable - where they are not looking to have a monopoly on all the moving parts. Yes they might not be able to IPO or be taken over for $100M+, but by changing the equation and moving away from the lock-in monopoly attitude, they will be better able to serve their customers and perhaps even their employees.

Isn't their anybody out their with the strength and courage to break out of the it's-all-about-the-money trap? One can always hope and pray.