One of my favorite gadget bloggers brought up an interesting point today about the downside of the waiting game for companies. In her post she notes the following:
The problem with waiting today is that it only takes a window of a few days or weeks for new technology to be developed which would make the pending device almost antiquated before its even in the public’s hand. Look at the Sony Xperia for example- when we first heard about this device it was big news because of the screen resolution, the interface, the sliding arc. We still have 3 months to go before it sees the light of day and the public is already getting bored with it! The interface that seemed so impressive 3 months ago now seems dated when adjacent to the likes of the widget-based Samsung i900[.]
I definitely agree with the analysis for waiting to release gadgets. It can really hurt your product if something better comes along. However, this doesn’t seem to apply to the social media services that I’ve been on lately. A service can have all the right features and be out the door first, but that won’t guarantee the monopoly some companies might be looking for. I chalk it up to three things:
- User Interface
- Functionality/Ease of Use
The user interface can be the key for some services. I personally won’t use a service if I think the interface is fugly. On the other hand, sometimes I’ll join a service just because the UI is gorgeous. I’m a sucker for eye candy and a great visual interface can go a long way to the point of beating out functionality. The iPhone and iPod Touch are prime examples of this imo. So, even established players that were out first can be overcome by the newcomers, especially if the newcomer has a more preferable UI. Google Reader happens to be another example that proves my point. It offers what other feed readers offer, but has a more….preferable UI, among other things.
No service is a success without a great community. FriendFeed is a prime example of this. While other services may have an arguably better UI and even more options, the community can make all of that irrelevant in the blink of an eye. You need the community behind you. You can take forever and a day to implement better features with a strong community behind you. Twitter is another prime example of this. There are services out there that offer better functionality with Twitter, but they haven’t dethroned the king of microblogging.
Functionality/Ease of Use
Last, though certainly not the least, functionality and ease of use can help to change the tides. This one is a lot trickier for latecomers to overcome. You can always adjust to the lack of functionality of some services. For example, Twitter has a host of addons that other services implement right of the box. So now, they can take forever to implement these things because the community has adjusted.
However, take a look a Disqus. Disqus is a social commenting system that is taking over a lot of popular blogs. After seeing it on the blog of Steven Hodson, I implemented it on SheGeeks not long after. The application has better functionality and is easier to use than WordPress’ standard commenting system. While Disqus certainly has a long way to go in dethroning WordPress, it has made headlines and I read at least 1 new post a day about someone integrating Disqus into their blog.
I’m just musing over the subject, I think it’s ironically funny how these two sides of technology, gadgets and web services, have such different rules that apply. What do you think?