Apple does it all

Episode Notes

  • Product vs platform
  • iPod is more Apple-y in somemways
  • There was a real possibility that iPhone never allowed apps and that’s what Apple wanted

Website vs Product Vs Platform

It’s interesting to think about the distinction between the three kinds of work that Happy Cog does. It’s not always this simple of course, the reality is that all the projects we do fall on a continuum from being a Website, which only has information flowing in one direction, to a product which I always define as anything where information is flowing in both directions, to a platform which I think of as flexible collection of products.

Websites showcase information in interesting and compelling ways but do not collect any information from the user. That doesnt mean they dont have any interactivity on them at all. Many of these websites have rich search with filters and even include multiple ways to view and browse information but user data is never collected.

Websites drift into becoming products once user data is collected and stored in any fashion. A simple example of this is adding comments onto a blog. Many sites dont think of adding comments as that big of a deal but it fundamentally changes the nature of the work and its important to keep the implications of that in mind.

Products start with things as simple as comments and include user accounts, subscriptions, message boards, and user generated content. Our work on is largely informational but becomes a product because it includes a paywall and ways to bookmark content. Generally anytime someone has to login to use your site its a product, or at least part of your work is product development.

Platforms is the squishiest of these distinctions for me, but is often like porn, you know it when you see it. Etsy and eBay are clearly platform because they let users sell their own stuff online while taking care things for them like the listing templates and payment processing. But what is the minimum a product needs to do to be considered a platform?

I think one way to think about is it that a Platform is a product where users can create their own content for other users to interact with. So YouTube and reddit are platforms and to take it back to the dithering episode the iPhone is a platform while the iPod was a product.

There’s no doubt that Platforms are more complex than Products and not just from a technical perspective. If you are building something that someone other than your staff are actively shaping than a whole new classes of risks and opportunities arise.

I think about the two and the idea of working on a platform, of any kind really, is really exciting to me and something to be on the lookout for in the future. If done well a platform, much more than just a product, can be the truest version of the vision I think we all have for technology. To empower people to do more with less.