Open Web's ultimate winner: platform providers

Tim O'Reilly: 'It's the back end that matters.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Is the Web still open or isn't it? Wired magazine just published a debate on whether the open Web, at least as we've known it, is "dead."  (You know, just like SOA and SaaS are dead.) Wired editor Chris Anderson engaged with two of the leading Web 2.0 proponents of our day, Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle, on the discussion.

Tim OReilly: Open Web fertile ground for new innovations

Tim O'Reilly: Open Web fertile ground for new innovations

With the rise of specialized devices for content, app stores, and premium services, many observers say the idea of the open Web is dissolving. However, what's interesting from an IT and service-oriented viewpoint is what O'Reilly had to say about the real winners so far. That is, something that we have said repeatedly on these pages (here and here) as well -- that the cloud service phenomenon mirrors that of IT upheavals in years gone by, such as the PC revolution.

O'Reilly made the point that the open Web may have not been working too well for big media companies, and in many ways it has leveled the playing field for smaller innovators. The really big winners in all this, he adds, "are going to be the platform companies, just as they were last time around, and the time before that, and the time before that."

"The competitive action has always been on the Internet as transport, with data-driven services as the back end," says O'Reilly: "It’s not APIs on the phone, it’s not Objective C or the iPhone OS, it’s still the data back end that gives even Apple its leverage."

In other words, the front-end device -- be it smartphone, PC, or iPad -- has really become irrelevant. What matters is what's being served from the back-end systems:

"'Web sites like Google, but also now Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, PayPal, LinkedIn and many others, have been quietly building those enormous data back ends that drive their Web sites, but more importantly, also drive a vast array of Web services. Google maps in the browser is still Google maps, with all the intelligence, all the deep data layers, that make it a success on either front-end. What the mobile ecosystems of today have done is to unmask the reality that it’s the back end that matters."

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