I meet quite a few entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who are eager to start web businesses. One common thing I noticed among us is to get on the track of willing to reinvent the wheel. Most of us don’t even realize how much our ideas can be the replicas of what is already well established online.
To bring a product or service into the online market that is dominated by players with strong roots (Google, Apple, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and to be willing to take over their audience by doing something a little bit different is really a waste of time. These players shaped the web, established strong roots, have big resources and are already way ahead in their R&D departments. One will never be able to compete that…
If Google is a dominant search engine, let them have it. Focus on developing tools for people to rank better on Google. If Skype is dominating the telecommunications, don’t spend your energy coming up with a product that has a nicer interface or more cool features. Creating add-ons for Skype could actually bring you results rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Facebook is already a number one social network – so what applications and tools are missing for Facebook users or could leverage the existing Facebook users?
The wheel has been invented. It works. It has been proven to work. And look how far everything has developed since: bicycles, carriages, cars, trains, buses, motorcycles, scooters, airplanes, etc… Their inventors were mixing and matching the previous discoveries, proven principles, concepts, elements and turning that into something new and useful. And each of those products created an ecosystem around them: sub-products such as helmets, tires, etc; new jobs such as manufacturers, technicians, designers, etc.
And isn’t such evolution fascinating? Why run upstream when you can flow?
It works like that on the web too…
In order to flow, to advance, to move forward, we need to understand the web ecosystem into which we are bringing a new product or service; its players, principles and rules. We need to participate in it, integrate into it… whichever way is more effective for our product or service. Your product/service can’t succeed on its own being isolated somewhere on the web. It doesn’t work like this.
So if now Facebook is a great source of audience and viral marketing, why not integrate it into your website, allow people to register using their Facebook account on your site, invite their Friends to your site, help you spread the word, etc.? If people are already posting photos on Flickr, why not allow them to import their Flickr photos into your site rather than asking them to upload photos from scratch? These are just a few very simple examples of this participation within the web’s ecosystem… One can be much more creative than that.
People don’t need another Facebook, Google or Flickr. People need more centralized, coherent and integrated ways to consume content or accomplish tasks; all while making their lives less disperse, more interconnected and rounded - in other words, more harmonic.
So cheers to that!
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