Building a Post-Modern World (Wide Web)

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Building off of the iPod’s successes are companies like Podzinger (a podcast search engine), PodcastSPOTS (a free service that lets podcasters insert third-party ads and podsafe music into their shows and get paid on a pay-per-click/insert), and BackBeat Media’s Podcast Network (a podcast ad network). And those who see Google Maps as the next mega hit are similarly constructing a cottage industry around exploding its uses in heretofore unrealized directions.

The key to this particular growth, as previously mentioned, was Google’s release of their mapping code. Soon after, the net blew up with mash-ups with anything from HousingMaps.com, which maps real estate listings, to mapping of world-wide UFO sightings all the while letting it be known that these are Google mash-ups. One might consider this a product placement. Jeff Marshall, Partner/Founder and software writer for Frozen Bear, the company that produced the HotOrNot/Google mash-up, offered up (via email) a bit of insight on the how and why of all this overlap. Marshall wrote:

“I think it is a natural evolution of the Internet. The Internet thrives when content is shared and protocols are open; this encourages innovation. I think the big companies like Google and Amazon believe: 1) The collective mind of thousands of software developers will come up with more and better ways to mash-up and enhance existing services than they could on their own; 2) Third parties can take risks and do things the big companies wouldn’t dare; [and] 3) It’s great PR for them. Every time someone comes up with a clever new Google Map site, that’s more free press for Google. When I wrote the HotOrNot + Google Maps mash-up HotOrNot scored all sorts of free press. In the end, most of the traffic will work its way around to the big guys.”

Just consider it a matter of scratching each other’s backs. And to John Horrigan, Associate Director of the Pew Internet Project, it’s an absolutely necessary relationship. “There are companies such as Microsoft and Google that are big and have revenue streams… but in order to stay that way they have to be reaching out to the little guy for innovations. They can’t just look inward as companies tended to do 30, 40, 50 years ago. So that creates new opportunities for the small players and creates more challenges to the big players.” The trick, Horrigan says, is for the big companies not to get too defensive or proprietary too fast. “They just have to maintain a culture of openness in order to get the maximum out of their innovation.”

Well, they’ve certainly left their doors wide open so far– and why shouldn’t they? In return for the use of their name (or part of their name) and/or their technology, a small to mid-sized business can build something that sells, while the original company still gets plenty of free marketing. No harm, no foul.

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