Embrace & Extend
Thursday, May 23, 1996 by Dave Winer.
This DaveNet is brought to you by the Talking Heads. The song -- Mr. Jones.
A Latin horn section. A marrrimba accent. Mr. Jones is back in town.
It's his lucky day! Hold up your hands and shout "Jones is on his way!".
It gets me ready for a short concise piece.
A bright contrast.
The other doesn't.
Two products collide in the market. If one developer is larger than the other, you get FUD. Or Embrace & Extend.
FUD is an acronym for fear, uncertainty and doubt. It's the way an older brother treats a younger brother. Step out of line and he beats you up. Make other people choose. Go with me because I'm stronger, says the older brother. The younger one is too scared to object.
Get to know a younger brother. Get to know an older one. You'll see what I mean. I paralyze my kid brother with fear. Any way he moves I get there first. Eventually he gives up. Eventually there's just an older brother.
But then something can happen that changes the equation. The brothers can grow up.
Then they give up FUD for Embrace & Extend. It's a more mature strategy. It involves seduction, not violence. You recognize the accomplishments of the younger brother. You still compete with each other, but you give him a chance to win too.
The big brother learns that this makes his life better too. A game where both people can win is more fun than a game that no one can win. It's been proven. Many times!
When Microsoft was younger they played the FUD game too. OS/2 was a discontinuity. They fixed the eight-character filename problem. Added a clipboard and a GUI. It was a modern operating system. But it was late! And it was a painful upgrade. Ooops. They didn't embrace the past. Even if you fail to embrace yourself, it's bad news.
In 1985 developers asked them to settle the TSR wars. They said no, wait for OS/2, it would fix everything. The result was stagnation in the PC market. They fudded the developers and the users, and themselves. The lack of growth in PC software created the window of opportunity for the Macintosh.
How to recognize FUD? If they ask you to wait, it's FUD. It's that simple.
Now Microsoft has opted for Embrace & Extend. It's all over their marketing literature. They use it in their speeches and slides. Embrace! Extend! They sneak it in when you aren't looking.
Embrace & Extend means that Microsoft Word reads WordPerfect files. Excel runs Lotus spreadsheets. It means that Windows runs DOS applications. And Microsoft Internet Explorer emulates Netscape where ever possible. Java? Of course. Embrace and Extend! Both at the same time. Why not?
Embrace & Extend means always saying yes.
Part of growing up means that you recognize that there are other people in the world. In order to Embrace & Extend you must first realize that other people create cool things, even people in your own family, even things you didn't expect.
Embrace & Extend works well, especially when you're the platform vendor and depend on other developers investing in the platform. Developers aren't fools. If they can't figure out how to make $130 million from being right before Microsoft is, they won't take any chances. Microsoft is a long-term player, so they can't afford to FUD everything that moves. If they did, their PE ratio wouldn't be as high as it is.
Embrace & Extend is kinder. Markets don't have to wait for the platform vendor. Customers don't lose their investment when they switch. Customers aren't stupid either. They learn. If developers go out of business all the time, they wait and wait and then forget why they were waiting. They forget to invest. That's how markets die.
Embrace & Extend is killer. It's also responsible. It says I'm stronger than you without having to resort to violence. I can respect you and still win.
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PPS: An embrace! http://www.scripting.com/applescript/.