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Don’t build solely on another’s technology… re: Flock
Back in the early '90s, as companies developed their office-like software, once their app became popular and successful, the next revision of Microsoft Office would include those features. So what happened to those companies? They closed. This happened numerous times (and still happens today). In a lot of discussions round the office, most felt that this is how Microsoft innovated. They either bought other companies or just "borrowed" their ideas and put them into Office.
Last year, as I walked around the Search Engine Strategies expo in NYC, I noted to my friends that the majority of these companies are built upon someone else's APIs and technology. Most of them are built using something from Google. And while Google allows such great access to their products and services today, what happens in the future when Google needs to increase their shareholder return? Perhaps they begin to charge for usage. Now I know you are all shaking your head that I am completely wrong. Print this out, tuck it away for 24 months and take it out and let's see.
Today, Mozilla Labs has announced that they are adding social networking features to the Firefox browser. TechCrunch notes, "This is not good news for the privately-backed social browser Flock (also built on Mozilla), which is yet to release a 1.0 version of its browser. Many of the proposed features and some of the mockups created by Mike Beltzner (see above) suggest a significant overlap in the two products."
And while I have no idea just how hard this will hit Flock, it certainly can't be good news overall. There are some hard-core Flock'rs and they might/should be able to carry through. What it means is that Flock will need to innovate even more to stay competitive. In addition, they will have to sell their product harder because now some may just default to this new Firefox social media edition.
As you design your startup idea, this is something to take into consideration. When you build your product and use another company's technology as the base, this can and likely will happen. Now in my Microsoft example above, Microsoft just added the features into Office which is a bit different than the Flock example. The difference is that when you build upon another's platform, you run the risk of having the same product. And when this happens, the main company will always win out.
And if you do build/leverage another company's technology solely, be forewarned. Terms of the contract may change at any point and could ultimately affect your ability to succeed in the long-term.
So here is my advice. Build your own app. Leverage other technology where it makes sense but don't put all your eggs in someone else's basket. And if you do, understand that your position can change in an instant.