Everything is a Platform

I spent all day Friday learning how the New York Times aspires to become a platform for a brave new world of online news (though they’re still figuring out how to handle user-generated content). Meanwhile, every social network hopes to be *the* platform for social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. To be clear, it’s not just that platforms are the new black; rather everyone wants to control whatever is left after Google has exercised its droit de seigneur as the gateway to online information.

The latest entrant on the aspiring platform front is Wikipedia, at least according to Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb. In a post entitled “Could Wikipedia’s Future Be as a Development Platform?“, Kirkpatrick suggests:

Wikipedia can offer developers opportunities to glean analysis, suplemental content and structured data from its years old store of collaboratively generated information.

He also observes that:

There is no formal Wikipedia Application Programming Interface (API) but the data there is relatively accesible anyway. It can be downloaded and proccessed locally.

Having worked with Wikipedia data, I think that access via download is actually a better option than access via an API, particularly since most APIs come with parsimonious rate limits, e.g., 5,000 requests per day for the New York Times APIs. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of New York Times article data *is* available for download, albeit only under non-commercial licensing terms.

In any case, it’s interesting to see the rush to transform everything–but particularly content–into a platform. I can only imagine the marketing geniuses getting ready for platforms of platforms. Of course, what we really need is for all of this information resources to play together nicely enough that we can seamlessly integrate them into applications (yes, that’s what platforms are supposed to help you build!) without worrying which of them are platforms.

Out of the platform frying pan and into the SOA fire…

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

11 replies on “Everything is a Platform”

So why isn’t Google itself a platform? I mean, the SERPs? It would be amazing if they let people build off of that platform. But they don’t.

Everyone’s trying to be a platform. But in this area, Google is not. What can we read into that?


I’ve written about how news content can be linked to DBpedia, a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia at

Beyond APIs, I believe semantic web technologies (RDF, OWL, SPARQL, and Linked Data) will emerge to support a smarter web. The advantages over APIs are: standardized access and format, searchability, and semantic links.

Joel Amoussou
CEO, Efasoft


Like Rob Gonzalez, my comrade-in-arms at Endeca, I’m cautiously optimistic about the semantic web but hardly sold on it as a panacea, particularly when people get into religious wars over standards. The problem strikes me as one not of technology but rather of incenting the necessary human work to create something that might be a public good but which no one seems willing to pay for.

As for Google choosing not to be a platform–why turn the web’s most popular application into a platform? It hardly surprises me that Yahoo! (“We’re number two so we try harder”) is leading the platform charge in web search. It remains to be seen if the market rewards them for this effort.


Ah, but it doesn’t matter what isn’t broken for them. It matters what is or isn’t broken, for the user.

Because Google’s stated goal is to focus on the user, first, and all else will follow. So is keeping their results lists closed really the best thing for the user?

There’s a certain conceptual disconnect there, of claiming that openness leads to more innovation, leads to the best experience for the users — in all areas except their own area. Sure, they support open-source operating systems, because they don’t make any money in that area. But why not open source search?


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