Pluggable products.. competing by collaborating.

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A while back, I wrote about competition and collaboration being tied to each other in today’s market place. That was directed towards organizations collaborating with right partners and competing in the space. Recently, I’ve been looking at a similar trend in software products. Its very difficult to separate collaboration and competition. In fact, as ironic as it seems, collaboration has become an essential requirement in today’s competitive environment.

We need applications that integrate seamlessly with other web services like twitter, facebook, flickr, etc. A standalone application is just not good enough.

We need applications that expose themselves through apis, so we could build plugins over them. Few years back, it would have sounded totally absurred to have applications which expose themselves to the outer world.

Think about it this way. You have a product. Of course you’d like people to use it. That’s the reason why you have a product at the first place. Now think about what would make it more interesting for your users.. More features. Well.. not necessarily extra features, but some improvements on the existing product. As a single provider, it’d take you enormous cost and time to try and deliver all by yourself alone. You’d need an additional hand. Expose apis and allow people to lend you that hand.

Its almost like outsourcing some of your development to external developers for no cost. You don’t just get some of your features done, but you also get another perspective on your product, which in certain cases can really change your product itself.

There are certain products like Mozilla Firefox and few other who have created a certain sticky-ness just because of their plugins. Lot of people don’t migrate to other browsers just because they don’t have the plugins that they’re used to in firefox. There are also products that are adding all sorts of new integrations to lure their users. Google Maps, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, iPhone, Android, and the list goes on..

Ok. So the message is.. if you’re building a product, think about pluggable architecture right from the initial phases instead of building it later.

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