Friday, October 10, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Young technologists love lock-in?

Earlier today I was reminded of how ridiculous it is when people say there's a difference between the way young technologists and old technologists think. I was told that young technologists don't like RSS, and would prefer to do a one-off API (where they can require an app key, which allows them to turn off competitors). I thought to myself, lock-in is not new. People of my generation did it. We even hated it when previous generations used lock-in to keep us in our place. Of course it backfired. Their lock-in just forced us to create personal computers, which were totally incompatible with their computers. Guess who had to adapt in the end? Heh.

So now it's the young people who don't want to support open formats! Imho it's not so much that they're young, it's that they're scared. They worry that, if they provide open access to the data their systems accumulate, no one will come to their website, therefore no one will be able to enjoy their lock-in, thereby justifying their multi-million dollar valuations. Why should we care? Problem isn't that they're young, the problem is they have a too-thin value-add to support the kind of investment they've taken on.

Since VCs are now investing in news startups, they are really testing the value of lock-in. I wonder how many of the new crop of VCs understand how this has shaken out in the past. I remember when RSS was just getting started, there were all kinds of fancy content management APIs, some were even in the process of being standardized. They all very quickly evaporated when RSS took hold. The difference between a four-screen spec and a bookshelf. Because you need all that complexity to hide all the lock-in. There was no place for lock-in in RSS. It was too obvious how it worked.

I think the VCs do a disservice to young technologists. When I was young, I would have said no thanks to lock-in. I'm not going to be so dishonest as to create tools that offer users no choice. I want to win because my stuff is deep and powerful and performs fantastically and has the features users want. Why? I chose my profession because I love what I do. There are lots of ways to make money. I'm not looking for scams and shortcuts.

We'll see what happens. The long term is a bitch, and it has a tendency to plow under get-rich-quick schemes and I know you think it's idealistic but evolution only builds on open formats and protocols. That's how technology layers. It's true some patents hold, and some lock-in gets built on. Look at PDF for example. But there's a reason HTML took us places PDF never could. The ability of anyone to do anything they wanted to, without having their API key revoked. That's a big enabler of creativity, to use terminology VCs understand.

Last built: Sun, Mar 22, 2015 at 5:50 PM

By Dave Winer, Friday, October 10, 2014 at 11:26 AM. Still diggin!