Thursday, September 20, 2007

Internet Platforms Defined

Platforms on the Internet are one of the hottest topics these days. Marc Andreessen helps to overcome the current confusion of the platform concept in his incredibly insightful blog post. Marc has tackled the concept of internet platforms and defined the three levels of them. Here is a short summary but I recommend you to check out the full article for details.

A "platform" is a system that can be programmed and therefore customized by outside developers -- users -- and in that way, adapted to countless needs and niches that the platform's original developers could not have possibly contemplated, much less had time to accommodate.
  • A Level 1 platform's apps run elsewhere, and call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services -- this is how Flickr does it.
  • A Level 2 platform's apps run elsewhere, but inject functionality into the platform via a plug-in API -- this is how Facebook does it. Most likely, a Level 2 platform's apps also call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services.
  • A Level 3 platform's apps run inside the platform itself -- the platform provides the "runtime environment" within which the app's code runs.
The most interesting of these internet platforms are those that are level 3. Some examples of these are:
  • Akamai's EdgeComputing
  • Amazon S3, EC2 and FPS
  • Ning (Marc's own company)
  • Google Apps could became a level 3 platform
  • Salesforce.com
  • Second Life
The platforms of the future will be in the cloud as online services that you will tap into over the Internet. This is a fundamental change that will drive a lot of innovations. We are living in very exciting times!

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