Relinquishing control as a competitive strategy

This is a good update with examples on what I call the laws of asymmetric competition, meaning that open/free, participatory and commons-oriented business strategies are key competitive drivers of netarchical capitalism.

I recommend reading the full entry by Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path which mentions several examples and insightful comments.


“Again and again, the history of the Web shows us the value of relinquishing control. Amazon’s customer comments were originally thought foolish by those who believed negative reviews would hurt sales. Instead, they increased trust, which drove more transactions. eBay’s open marketplace eschews centralized control of buyers and sellers, instead favoring a distributed management system where individuals rate one another. Not coincidentally, Google, Amazon, and eBay have all made available their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) so that others can leverage their information in unforeseen and innovative ways.

Many designers find it remarkably difficult to relinquish control. As Jeff found out when judging an interactive design competition, designers will go to great lengths to control the users experience popping up windows or resizing them, placing everything within Flash, cueing music. They get so caught up in controlling the superficial form of the product that they neglect to appreciate the context of the experience.

The Web’s lesson is that we have to let go, to exert as little control as necessary. What are the fewest necessary rules that we can provide to shape the experience? Where do people, tools, and content come together? How do we let go in a way that’s meaningful and relevant to our business?

One guiding light is Flickr. While Ofoto, Snapfish, and Shutterfly, devolve into a photo print price war, Flickr rises above the fray, confident that you’ll find its services worth paying for (and if you don’t, that’s okay, too). Ofoto enforces such control that guests must sign up in order to view someone else’s public photos. That requirement ensures that people will flee to less-controlling services.”

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