Monday, December 19

generalizations from recent work by our friends at google, twitter, apple, et al.

1. Would you really like to kill or neuter a popular application, platform, or service? Well think again, because— No, actually, go right ahead. Your users don't have any rights and can't do shit. Welcome, everyone, to the brave new frontier of the Cloud!

2. If you want people to stop using existing features of software, you'll catch less static by just making them incredibly inconvenient than by removing them outright. One approach is to hide a feature's existence behind configuration options or migrate it into an addon or plugin. This will temporarily placate power users, who will just figure out how to turn the feature back on while everyone else forgets that it exists. You may have better luck in the long term with simply ruining an interface, which will assure that almost no one continues to use it, but lets you point out that it still exists if anyone complains. (Later, once everyone has basically given up, you can justify the feature's removal by pointing out that no one uses it.)

3. It's not news that your agenda for the web will go further if you control a popular browser. It just took longer than it should have to figure out that the best way to achieve this is to build a pretty good browser.

3a. Your browser needs to be pretty good (no mean feat, in this day and age), but it also needs to create the impression of being the legitimate new hotness, so that youngish technical people will feel like they might be losing their edge by not using it. Just like in sports, perceived momentum is very nearly everything.

4. If you can just build a really good e-mail system, it is remarkable how much your users will tolerate in order to keep using it. Get this one right enough, and the competition will naturally diminish as many of the smart people who would otherwise be working on alternatives switch to your system and stop worrying about mail altogether. Bonus: You now have a unified authentication mechanism for whatever harebrained schemes you might care to foist on the world, and you basically own the identities of millions of users.

5. Just because you're in a five- or six-way knife fight with other big players in warehouse-scale computing doesn't mean you can't all collude to undermine some of the little niceties of an open web. Readable URLs, easy deep linking, feed discoverability — this stuff is not helping pile those garden walls any higher. If you need to distract the users who might care about this sort of thing, you can probably annoy them by giving a designer who thinks they've come up with a better scrollbar free reign for a while. Everybody seems to have at least a couple of those on staff these days.