Tim O’Reilly on open mobile
December 17th, 2007

I sat up and said, “dang, I wish I had written that” when I read this letter to New York Times from Tim O’Reilly, remarking on the roadblocks and roadmap to a mobile web that could be as innovative and cornucopian as the tethered Internet had been:

Both the personal computer and the Internet flourished in an environment of free-market competition. Tim Berners-Lee did not have to submit his idea for the World Wide Web in 1991 to a “state-of-the-art testing lab.” All that he needed to unleash a revolution was a single other user willing to install his new Web server software. And the Web spread organically from there.

There’s a lesson here for Verizon and other cellphone companies. Like the open architecture of the personal computer, the open architecture of the Internet didn’t mean the end of competitive advantage. What we learn from the history of both is that open platforms engender “winner takes all” network effects. Once a company gets a first-mover advantage, the mass of users adopting the company’s application or platform makes that product more attractive to the next user.

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