Here’s Google Wave. It’s a crazy casserole of Twitter, IM, email, Facebook… but what it really is fascinates me.
Let’s say you’re a company that wants to compete against Microsoft. First, that’s just not a good idea in general, but the most viable strategy you have is to reduce whatever Microsoft product you’re going up against to a faceless widget and then build around it. You don’t want to fight SQL Server (or Oracle, for that matter). You want to fund open database alternatives, standards, and go build stuff that runs on any database… and hopefully Microsoft doesn’t envelop and destroy your value-add.
If you’re an airline, you want planes to be a commodity that consumers don’t care about. If you’re Boeing, you’d really love it if people demanded to fly on your planes, so instead you’re duking it out with Airbus and the things that compose and service your planes are what you’re trying to reduce to commodities.
If you’re Expedia, where I work, you want to have a huge catalog of shiny things, but if one of those things was soooo amazingly shiny everyone wanted it and only it, you’d be screwed. And that one hotel could charge whatever they wanted and make ridiculous money.
Twitter and Facebook right now both have early eBay like advantages: your friends are there, so if you want to hang out, you have to go there. Any competitor has to either build on or extend them (which is good for the platforms, because it builds their user base and enhances their features), or offer full compatibility and migrate people over, or offer something that doesn’t look like it’s competition until it’s too late.
Like Twitter v Facebook: Twitter’s this dumb, clunky thing, has some users, and then bam, suddenly everyone’s on it so everyone wants to be on it, and soon Facebook’s dumping things it does right to offer an experience closer to Twitter…
Anyway. So say you’re Google, and your business is essentially contextual ads. You don’t get to put those on Twitter feeds, and any revenue sharing with Facebook’s going to have to beat the spread they can get themselves. So why not just take a shot at destroying their entire ecosystem?
Because say Google Wave works. Then, like Gmail, they can try and offer the best interface to this new wonder commodity and slap their super-smart contextual ads on it, and they’re off to the races. Facebook’s built a Facebook platform, Twitter’s built a platform for social media jerks to auto-follow and spam each other continually, but Google Wave puts Twitter in the same bucket as the Twitter competitors, leveling them all, and then it makes your social network home irrelevant, because who cares if you’re using Facebook or MySpace if Wave helps suck up all the interesting stuff in them?
I don’t know if it’ll work… but it’s brilliant as a business move.