I often heard that today, we are living in the “golden hours” of the Information Era where the advances is nothing short of incredible. Example? For the first time in the known history, we became one global society.
The question now is — as those who surf would often ask — where is the next big wave?
We at nextCoder believe that the Online Platform (Software as a Service or SaaS is another name for it) sector has reached the condition where one of those big waves might happen. And a lot of software development companies (including us) are gearing up and getting ready to ride this wave. And a lot of Business Intelligence and Data Analysis companies (including us) are getting ready for this also.
What Qualifies As An Online Platform?
The first thing to be clear about is that an Online Platform is not simply a website or a web application. There are millions of websites out there going up and down, and there are millions of web applications developed either for private usage or public. Obviously not all of these can be regarded as platforms. So let’s take a look at what is it exactly that separates a website or a web application from a real Online Platform:
- Free or available at a lower cost for the users
- Non-exclusive systems, the more users, the better it is
- It is continually being developed and improved
- Users produce content or other platforms within the platform
Who are these Online Platforms Users?
The users are the bread and butter for an Online Platform. Without its users the platform is … well, useless. And just like how it is for businesses, the type of the users or customers can be divided into two broad categories: B2B and B2C.
Each of these categories have its own characteristics and determines how the Online Platform would have to be designed, constructed, and maintained.
B2B Online Platform users are using the system within the context of their respective companies. Therefore such platforms are usually full of complex features, heavy on customizations, more robust and secure, and zero or limited interactions between users from other companies. Attlasian JIRA would be a good example for this.
B2C Online Platforms like Twitter on the other hand puts a lot of demands in terms of capacity (thousands to millions of users using the system), but not so much on complex transactions, workflow, and security. At least not in the beginning, but since one of the characteristics of a platform is that it grows continually, eventually, even a B2C platform can have complex workflow. Also, this does not mean that B2C platforms are insecure or not robust.
And then there are Online Platforms that deals with both Businesses and Customers at the same time. eBay would be a prime example of this kind of platform.
Online Platform Categories
Educational / Entertainment – These platforms collects, share, and serve content that is educational or entertaining (or both) in nature. These are typically B2C.
Social / Networking - I think everyone know what these looks like.
Transactional / Operational – What used to be the domain of custom and exclusively built applications now has started to be available as an Online Platform. This is possible thanks to the Internet which drives the acceptance of connectivity even among businesses, which are far more conservative than individuals in this regard. These are mainly B2B.
Why Does This Matter To Everyone?
Eventually, almost all of us will become a user of one or more Online Platforms. Why? Because the next generation of Online Platforms will be even more useful, connected, and convenient than what is available today. This should be regarded as an excellent opportunity especially for Business Owners, company Executives and Entrepreneurs.
For individual customers, the sheer convenience and quality of services will continue to climb up. The amount of information that we would know about each other will also increase. That can be either scary or good, depending on your perspective.
For Business Owners and company Executives, what does this mean? Online Platforms can be used to operate existing businesses at a much lower cost. How so? Because the Online Platform builder can spread the cost among platform users.
What about competitions? Why would a company use an Online Platform along with its competitors? It depends on the nature of the business. A good Online Platform has to be built independent of the factors in which the users compete on.
For example, a platform that automate operations, collect metrics, and perform data analysis, would boost the service quality of its users while keeping the playing field level. On the other hand, platforms that share users’ data without their consent, or provide unfair advantages to some of the users, is a big no-no and should be avoided at all cost.
For Entrepreneurs, Online Platforms can be used to generate new streams of revenue. Build platforms for existing businesses to use. There are so many niche opportunities that depends more on who do we know more than what we know.
What’s The Stats?
Those of us who loves statistics, here is an interesting Google trends plot on the level of interest of the term Online Platform over the years:
It should be noted that the trend is slightly increasing. That means the awareness of the Online Platform concept (represented by the term) is rising among us.
So the next time I hear someone says “golden hours” of the Information Era, I now have an idea what some of it may look like. Let’s ride the wave together.
– Will Gunadi