I thought the best way to open a series of posts about platforms is to actually talk about what is a platform. Software platforms have been around for a long time and many of the same principles and dynamics apply across the changing times and technologies.
I want to start off by recommending some homework. I found a book early in my time at Twitter, called Invisible Engines, that helped me greatly in understanding the dynamics and economics of platforms. A lot of how I think about platforms was shaped by that book and you’ll see many of the concepts repeated here. While it looks long, you can focus on a few key chapters to make it an easy read. You can download it as a free eBook from the MIT Press.
Now, let’s go back to June of 2007 — the iPhone has just launched. The only applications allowed on the phone were the ones that Apple built and pre-installed. No Facebook, Pandora, Twitter, Evernote, Uber, Angry Birds, Netflix, Square, and so on. Each one of those applications went on to thrust the iPhone into huge new markets. Square suddenly turned your phone into a money making device for small business owners. Angry Birds made the iPhone an indispensable gaming device. Netflix let you stream movies and TV shows right to your device. Facebook and Twitter turned every phone into something that let you share the world around you — from your child’s birth to a plane landing on the Hudson. The iPhone would not be the monumental success it is today if Steve’s original vision of Apple building every app had played out. Continue reading