On Platform fragmentation and user required actions

Platform fragmentation and user required actions are the great problem for any category of tech growth, in my humble opinion.

It is said competition drives innovation, and I believe that (it has motivated myself more than once), but if you have a dozen companies with a similar platform, all competing and innovating, you have an audience fragmented among the, say 12, with each company pushing and pushing as itself being the best. Each company, being innovative, creates their own platform, formats, social circles, and portals, and tend to add a action layer on top to gain users; like a sign up gate, download requirement, or format conversion process. This fragmenting and the gates seem to make companies plateau on signups/interest, and then internal problems start to see the company fall apart.

Sounds like rambling above? Let me use examples:

  1. John Doe shares music content from Streaming Platform A to Jane Doe, Jane loves Johns recommendations, but doesn‘t use Platform A, she’s been using Platform B for years and has a great library of playlists on it. To view the content shared, she’d have to sign up (to pass the login gate), but she hates signing up, she can never remember her logins, was told by the nightly news not to use the same passwords, and hates getting emails from companies. Jane has better things to do than talk tech ramblings with John on how to see the content shared, and she just moves on with her life like a normal person.

Extending the above: each company has a social element to them, “friends” features within the platform, but groups of real-life friends are fragmented among so many services available, that there’s no real circles of friends interacting.

This battle is clear in the current headlines with streaming companies offering exclusive content to fish in new sign ups from other platforms. People are settled on their 1-of-12 services, no one wants to rebuild their library of songs on a new platform, or sign-up just to consume a tiny bit of media. As a consumer, it’s a headache watching these companies flaunt and battle for my mild level of interest.

  1. I used to worry deeply about companies automating web development, stealing my job from under me, like the robots that replaced the assembly line. This was a great fear in my early years that drove me more to the design than the development. I saw companies like SquareSpace gain momentum and I saw real promise, but soon I realized my theory of platform fragmentation was my savour. There’s so many options available to make your site online “easily” so many tools out there, and they‘re really good if you dedicate yourself to them, but again, there’s not really because of the volume and fragmented audience. There‘s no indisputable leader or standard. Service A is no better than Service B in the eyes of the new, and to use either service it requires experience on that platform only. There’s no 1-clear way to make and have a good “build your own” website, there’s dozens of great isolated ways.

Can a expert WordPress.com blogger use Squarespace.com right away, no. It’s hard to get accustomed to the new logics, new interfaces, new terminology, support systems, etc. This transition again applies to sharing and circles, they’re competing services, protected by lock-gates and their own ecosystems.

  1. Share a document on Google Doc, but your colleague uses Dropbox Paper, you think Dropbox Paper sounds cool (even though to the eyes of the new, it‘s the same, just shinny and new), you sign up and upload your document there. Now you have some documents on your Google Drive, some in your Google Doc, a bunch of .docx in your email, and local copies on your iCloud Drive that you accidentally converted to Pages but are too scared to delete it. You’ll continue using one of the above 5 when needed, but there won‘t be 1 winner, 1 gold standard, or one only-used: the world of word processors is too fragmented, everyone wants you to use theres and they’ll continue to.

You may be lucky enough to be in a workplace that has strict guidelines on what platforms to use, but your customers you interact with may not care and will do what they’re used to doing.

  1. Share your note from Evernote, no sorry, he only uses Microsoft OneNote, and was actually thinking about using Google Keep, not Evernote. He was just in the processes of cleaning up all his Notes from his iCloud’s Note.app before migrating.

If you work on computers all day as I do, the above is an every day occurrence. Some time in the last 10 years, it’s become the norm to do the same thing on different platforms, like file hosting, documents, or notes – then be frustrated when trying to share or collaborate, running into sign ins and sign ups. We’d tell the person “No I don’t use Google Drive, use Dropbox instead.” but it’s easier to just go with the flow than change the course. I don’t need 4 different online collaborative Word Processors, but I have them all, and it’s awful.

Now, Social Media Platforms are the great exception to my theory, they’ve embraced the fragmentation and created formats and mostly removed the gates.

Undisputed leader of Social Media is Facebook, everyone knows that, but you almost never see a FB logo without Twitter. Add in Tumblr, Instagram, Linkedin, Google+, and Pinterest for most growing modern business’s advertising themselves.

How could these handful of companies flourish in such tight competition and innovation: they adopted each others formats and allowed sign-ups from their competitors. #hashtags was arguably Twitter’s thing, now it’s on all of them, it’s standard, it’s interchangeable. A content maker like a news program could put up a hashtag and it can be used on any of them. All these platforms have the same visual cues as the other, avatars, appreciation buttons, profile banners, just the “feeds” and such vary. You’re able to sign into Pinterest with your Facebook account. Share content from Tumblr to Facebook, you’re able to view the content without having to sign up. They’ve merged in a sort of way, to different channels (business Linkedin, friends Facebook, images Instagram, ArtsyFartsy: Pinterest, etc.) of a very similar platform, with a consistent format.

Comparing a inherently sharing medium like Social Media can’t fairly be compared to Music Steaming platforms, but shouldn’t it? The Steaming platforms all think they’re superior, and hide behind login walls to leech users. They’re number hawks, they share only to themselves, push away outsiders, and don’t really interlink.

These platforms should stop fragmenting us and should make our lives more connected; like the point of the internet. Let Darwins Theory decide who gets to be on top and eventually the pick a leader, or naturally sub-divid into channels like social media, but stop fragmenting and slowing us down with the variety and exclusivity.

“Edit this Google Doc on Dropbox Paper”

wouldn’t that be nice.

“Add this Evernote clip to your OneNote folder”

Ahh digital world peace.

Reblog this Tumblr post on WordPress.com

Could it really be!

“Share this Apple Music song on Spotify or Last.fm

Can you imagine!


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