July 12, 2007 11:59 AM PDT

Going from killer app to major Web platform

What do Facebook, Second Life, Google and Salesforce.com have in common?

They all started out as applications that evolved into Web platforms, enabling developers to create more compatible programs and companies to build businesses off the platform ecosystem. This is the wave of the future, company executives said in a panel on Thursday at Fortune magazine's first iMeme: Thinkers of Tech conference, an event striving so hard for chicness that it opened with a lesson on how to operate the Herman Miller Aeron chairs filling the room at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Francisco.

"The Internet is the new operating system. The killer apps of the Internet are becoming platforms that are creating communities of innovation," said Marc Benioff, chief executive of customer-relationship management specialist Salesforce.com. "This is a whole new chapter in our industry."

"The power of the platform is it makes your core offering more valuable," he said. Platforms are able to extend into new markets by being open to outside developers, he said. For instance, application development that Thomson Financial and Dow Jones did on Salesforce.com suddenly made his company "a huge player in the financial services market," he said.

"We replaced (business-software provider) Siebel (Systems); they never made the leap from killer app to platform," Benioff said. "If you don't make that leap, you don't become a major player like an SAP or an Oracle."

When apps flooded Facebook
Sitting next to dot-com veteran Benioff, whose company offers hosted business software as a service over the Internet, was 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, who started the popular Facebook social-networking site in his college dorm room less than four years ago. Facebook's move to open the site up to outside developers and to allow anyone, not just college students, to use the site has led to a surge in membership registrations.

"The most natural way for people to communicate and the most efficient was through" friends and acquaintances online, said Zuckerberg. "To us, opening up the platform was just the next step in developing this theory."

"We're going to give you all the same tools that we give ourselves; treat your apps the same as ours," he added.

That move quickly paid off. Thousands of applications have been released for Facebook since late May when the company opened up the platform. "It has certainly grown a bit faster than we had originally expected. We thought there would be a lead time," he said. "That whole process got condensed to about a week."

Within one week the first new application had a million users, while more than half of the users have added an application to their Facebook page, Zuckerberg said.

"We're going to be constantly pushing the envelope," he said. "There is still a lot of stuff we need to do with developers, a lot more controls we can give to people."

Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google, said she agreed with Zuckerberg that platforms often happen naturally in technology companies. That was the case at the search engine, which offers advertising systems that enable anyone with a Web site to make money off that site. And Google distributes gadgets--third-party applications that people can put on their Google home page and other sites, she said. Google also has made it easy for developers to create mashups and overlay other data on top of it. For example, Google has released Google Gears, a browser-side plug-in that makes it easier for people to develop Ajax applications that can run offline.

But Google may even go further than just releasing developer tools, according to Mayer.

"We just have so many ideas that we can't implement...so it makes sense to open it up. The coup de grace would be letting people build on our platform, on our servers," she said. That idea is complicated and thus "something we're interested in, but we haven't made many advances on" it, she added.

Philip Rosedale, chief executive of Linden Labs, which produced the Second Life virtual reality environment, said Second Life and Facebook are popular because they give people a new environment to interact in that they are comfortable with.

"It seems that a lot of the platforms out there allow us to do things we can already do in the real world...and let us do them extremely fast."

See more CNET content tagged:
Salesforce.com Inc., Marc Benioff, Facebook, platform, CRM

2 comments

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oh brother!!!!! more hype from LL and second life
For your information phillip Linden is hardly in game let alone in the CEO position. Saying that i hardly believe what is written here. The BOOK as they call is it outdated and in its translation forms are not only badly due, but also total lie in its content. "Going from killer app to major Web platform" as its said is nothing more then a UI that is bug infested, and hackers are having a field day steal money and land with in the game.
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
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I have it in theory what is the next big thing
Actually we are doing it in china and I am sure it gonna make huge sense shortly. I mean the future lies in web-based RSS and user-driven mashup, so the youtubes especially facebook vertically are in the right direction but not enough no wonder sometimes they will lost doing something offend their users. We must reject the concept doing the traditional Internet business let alone Operating systems like WebOs or Webservice Opening API. We must build the web as a platform which has dedicated subject and audience thus we can have control to the customer so that we can grasp the internetlised content and application, there is a chinese saying:皮之不存毛将焉附. something like and Operator2.0, you know they have vendor of network equipment and handset maker help setup the infrastrcture and provide application then customers help themself generate content: voice, data and even more...But ours will quadplay within internet, software, hardware and media industry, like yahoo to media, salesforce to software, apple to hardware, so this is really gonna be future stuff and we are trying to make it in china. And cheers cause definetely we have entered into an era of unified competition totally (同质化全竞争)thanks to the fantastic spurt of ICT and TMT world tend to be flat. I am pretty much sure it will shape the brand new future of this whole TMT&ICT industry.
How:
vision, mission, strategy
vision, focus, execuation
innovation: speed and simplicity
engineering: user experience and security

4more turn to waulerwauler#gmail.com
Posted by wauler (9 comments )
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