mark my word: ecosystem

Start noticing how often you hear people use the word “ecosystem.”

It’s no longer used simply to describe some the combination of physical and biological elements that comprise an environment.

Rather, it’s being tossed around to connote the coordination of external elements in a manner that results in a proprietary system.

Here’s why:

What web2.0 was really about was the decentralization away from some sort of monolythic propreitary concept towards an ala carte paradigm. As we move beyond web2.0 we’re beginning to see a connection of these ala carte items.

It’s become non-value adding to have a MySpace page, a Linked In profile, a Facebook presence, etc. However, we don’t want to give these things up. Rather, we want to coordinate them.

Friendfeed et al. represent a move in this direction.

Additionally, people are realizing that if they want high adoption of whatever they create they must enable people to connect their creation to their existent applications rather than forcing them to add yet another application to their world. Hence the very easy ability to connect, for instance, your Twitter feed to your Facebook profile. Hence the preponderance of APIs/widgets/etc.

This has been what’s been going on for the past couple of years: people starting to connect their disparate apps (via APIs) together like Legos.

Now, with the emergence of social media, it’s no longer just the apps that are in some form of scattered-ness/connected-ness, but also your constituents. You have friends/fans/customers/colleagues scattered about. This is no good, and people have begun to realize that they need a central place; a hub from which the spokes of connectivity emanate.

However, this is a very different type of hub from those pre-web2.0 hubs.

Instead of being limited to the functionality of platform upon which your hub was built upon (be it a blog platform or whatever), now one can really begin to start pulling in these apps/widgets/APIs into their own hubs.

What we have now is a planet with moons in its orbit, rather than galaxies of random, unconnected planets.

We have ecosystems.

The implications of this are vast. Prior to these developments if you wanted to create an ecosystem you had to hand build everything. This was expensive and time consuming, and really the provenance of the deep-pocketed. The emergent were left to either join these ecosystems or be left in the cold; they could not afford to create their own ecosystem.

Now, with good planning and a judicious use of the apps/widgets/etc. at your disposal you can begin to create an ecosystem that leverages the strengths of the existent applications while still building your own presence.

I can’t tell you how many times I have advised companies against starting their own social network. I tell them to, instead, develop a robust presence on FB, and leverage it to get the message you want out about your own presence. Don’t compete with FB; you will lose. Instead, use Twitter, FB, etc. to make people aware of your own Site, business, etc.

This requires coordination. It requires having a vision and providing value for people at your own Site.

When done right, you do create an ecosystem.

Believe me, this is an important moment. It’s important because it brings us closer to solving the largest problem for the web entrepreneur (and aren’t we all web entrepreneurs?) right now: the coder/manager dilemma. That is, no longer will those of us with ideas be held hostage by some coder whom we have hired to implement our ideas, but – for a variety of reasons (many outlined in the post) – cannot/will not.

As the web becomes less and less driven by tech-types and more and more driven by creative-types we will experience breakthroughs beyond belief. (And, yes, I know, tech-types can be creative types, but it’s far more rare than you think.)

The ability to create ecosystems via the creative combination of existent technology instead of having to create everything from scratch is a momentous thing; hence the zeitgeist around the word “ecosystem.”

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