The Love/Hate Relationship with Internet Applications

Written March 29th, 2009 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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Last week was one of those “wrestle with my laptop” weeks.  In the process I confronted my love/hate relationship with internet applications head on.

I love how lightweight my laptop has become over the years as my reliance on internet applications has grown.  I hate when one of those applications goes belly up, which is what happened to my social bookmarking website, Furl.

Today I’ll recount those experiences and how they got me thinking about b2b2dot0.

You know it’s time to restore your laptop to factory settings when you get into the habit of powering it on before starting to make your morning coffee.  Before the era of internet applications, I used to really dread this biannual ritual.  Just the thought of reinstalling all those desktop applications, finding their license keys, reconfiguring their startup settings, etc etc etc was enough to have me rationalizing that there was meditative value in starting my day off slowly.

But nowadays, after restoring the machine to factory settings, once I get Mozilla installed and synchronize my bookmarks with Foxmarks, I’m 95% in business.  The only “pure” desktop application that I use is Openoffice.org.  Within a couple of hours of work, my laptop was rebuilt, all files were restored from my network server and I was happily reacquainted with the speedy adolescent version of my friend.  (Too bad a similar rejuvenation service doesn’t exist for us).

Thanks to the likes of Google, Central Desktop, Typepad, Mozilla, Twitter, Facebook, Intuit, et al my laptop is looking more and more like a netbook.  That’s the beauty of the internet.

But seeing a posting like this one;

FurlDEmise

on the home page of the social bookmarking website that I’ve been using for years, represents the dark side of  internet applications.  They can go away.

I literally have hundreds of bookmarks categorized, annotated, and shared with furl.  Not only do they bring back great memories of the planning process for all of the vacations I’ve taken in the past 8 years, but all of the research I’ve done for b2b2dot0 was stored up there as well!

Needless to say, I pushed the panic button.  I followed furl’s instructions to “easily transfer” all of my bookmarks to their acquirer, diigo, but frankly, I was skeptical…and a little pissed.

I took a quick tour of the diigo website and was resentful that I was being forced into learning a whole new bookmarking paradigm and user interface.  I quickly developed a “Plan B”.  I exported all of my data to an html file.  While not an elegant solution, it at least gave me a sense of relief knowing that my intellectual assets were in tact.

Frankly, I’m not sure that I will stick with diigo.  My understanding and requirements for a social bookmarking site have changed over time and so has technology.  As time permits, I’ll dig into the competing services and make a decision at my convenience…not theirs.

Herein lies the double edge sword of internet applications.

The web is really convenient, and it’s easy to become dependent on it.  The challenges arise when you start to become dependent on it.

We at b2b2dot0 were quite aware of this when we started the company.  We knew that the service we’re providing is critical to your company’s mission.  How much more critical can you get than taking the orders that drive your business?  Consequently we made two very important strategic decisions from the get go:

  1. Reliability, availability and serviceability are core requirements of the service, not afterthoughts. (see my Two Mouse Clicks in Shanghai)
  2. Our clients will have a zero risk of being left in the lurch in the remote, but real, possibility that we have to close our doors.

While no one likes to talk about the possibility of things not working out, it would be irresponsible not to deal with the risk.  There are three things we’ve done to make the Furl scenario more manageable for you.

  1. Our entire technology stack is open source.  There is no proprietary technology that will become obsolete on you…aka what happened to all of our friends who bought their solutions from HAHT Commerce (GXS).  Or even more recently, that which happened to Coghead.
  2. Your entire solution is contained within your own Virtual Machine slice. That means producing a DVD with everything you need to resurrect your website is almost as simple as pushing a button.  And restoring that DVD isn’t much more difficult than that.
  3. Your entire slice is deposited into escrow at EscrowTech on a quarterly basis.  That means that if our phones ever stop ringing, EscrowTech is authorized to release the DVD that can put your website back in business in short order.

In the end, I think we’re managing to deliver a lot of business value while minimizing and managing the risks.  Just what you would expect from an industry leading internet application.

Sam