App Developer : How Independent Is Your Business?

A growing trend amongst web startups observed in recent times is of basing business models around the services/products of a bigger player in the industry. There are numerous companies developing Facebook apps, Twitter apps or apps for mobiles. Even within the mobile app segment they may be catering to a particular platform (iOS – Apple, Android, Symbian) or a combination of these platforms.

Now why is this trend gaining momentum?

The very foremost reason is – it is easy to piggyback on the bigger player’s success which has already crossed some milestones on the road to success. You have a full-fledged user base (customers) from the very first day. Another attractive reason is that some not-so-old companies have struck gold in this business model (Read Zynga).

Meeting the Don
Meet the Don

My question – Are you playing safe?

This thought stemmed from a news item some days back stating that developers of Twitter apps would be held against higher standards going forward and there would be stringent enforcement of terms and conditions. Whether this was or will be finally put into action or revoked is not the point. The point is that Twitter CAN do it. All the other companies too (Read Google, Facebook, Apple) have similar powers over their respective platforms. They can loosen the strings or stretch the strings (example: Google will not open source Honeycomb anytime soon) at any time as per their interest. Now, isn’t this just too big a risk or external influence if your complete business is based on these platforms.

Some solutions

Though it is generally not advisable to target too many markets, but in this case it is almost like a necessity. Instead of targeting just a single platform, try and diversify into multiple platforms. A good way around for this could be working on a cross platform technology. This way, even if a single company plans to tighten the strings or make its platform less developer friendly, you would have other platforms to rely on. Another way is to make a killer product and make it more addictive than the original product you were piggyback on. A very good example is Zynga – Today Facebook gains quite a good amount of user visits and more importantly increased user stay time on the website solely due to Zynga products. For some of us Facebook users, Facebook would just not be the same without Mafia Wars and Farmville.

What’s your take? If you are an app developer, how do you plan to keep yourself safe from the clutches of platform owners?

[Guest article by Pooja Gupta.]

Recommended Read: Of Mafia World, Platforms and App Developers [Get Entrepreneurial]

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