Bosworth on the Network’s Value

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From Adam Bosworth:

The real value in my opinion has moved from the software to the information and the community. Amazon connects you to books, movies, and so on. eBay connects you to goodness knows how many willing sellers of specific goods. Google connects you to information and dispensers of goods and services. In every case, the push is for better and more timely access both to information and to people. I cannot, for the life of me, see how Longhorn or Avalon or even Indigo help one little bit in this value chain.

My mother never complains that she needs a better client for Amazon. Instead, her interest is in better community tools, better book lists, easier ways to see the book lists, more trust in the reviewers, librarian discussions since she is a librarian, and so on.

Couldn’t agree more. Here’s what I said on a related topic back in August:

But I think that people who choose to focus on blogging as a technology miss the point. What we’re really talking about is the network. Blogs certainly make that communication easier – and more transparent – but, ultimately, blogs are just an enabler. When you come down to it, blogs are really just a basic content management system with embedded syndication.

The value in both examples isn’t the technology, it’s the interaction, community – pick your soft-sounding adjective of choice – that the technology enables.

Take Apple’s iTunes client and store, as an example. The last few versions of iTunes have offered the ability to publish playlists to the community as iMixes. Sounds great. Very community oriented.

But unfortunately the underlying technology limits the community aspects, by a.) not exposing an easily accessible URL to be shipped around, B.) not providing a simple “email this to your friends” after the initial creation, and c.) not providing a basic search iMixes feature. These obviously are not insurmountable technical challenges; indeed, some are fairly trivial. But it indicates the basic lack of attention to the fundamental importance of the network, and the communities the network enables. Think O’Reilly’s Architecture of Participation.

The applications that are designed on an appreciation of the network’s importance – Flickr, Bloglines, etc – see resulting surges in popularity, with – they hope – revenues to follow.

But sooner – not later – we can expect this notion to be more universally embraced and become a core consideration of application design. When that happens, I, for one, can’t wait to see what the result is.


  1. Yes especially to the email. I'm amazed that the mobile vendors who support lists haven't just let you attach phone numbers/email addresses to them and then quietly used these addresses to keep the lists in sync across the mobile devices. Like playlists.

  2. the lack of synchronization in general amongst networked devices is really pretty shocking. my cell phone (no blue tooth, only IRDA) can't talk to my PC which can't talk to my ipod which can't talk to exchange which can't talk to my gmail and so on. so now i have playlists, contact DBs, and email stores that are tied to a single location or device.

    i would love for someone to remedy that for me. the challenge is there – particular on the device end – but not insurmountable. technologies and standards exist for each one of those problems.

    but beyond the technical issues are those of trust. who will be doing that syncing for me? how much control will i have? will i be able to switch to a competing service? etc.

    all questions i'm hoping Google is spending some cycles on.

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