By BoLOBOOLNE payday loans

Democratizing Product Development: Amazon, Google and Facebook

A trend in modern successful websites is the democratization of information and decision making.  The so-called wisdom of the crowds is at the heart of what makes a web 2.0 company successful.  I’m going to compare how three companies have democratized the process of making product development decisions.

Amazon makes extensive use of so-called A/B testing to try out new UI’s and optimize the user flow.  This works very well for them because their end goal is very well defined: they want people to buy stuff.  They are facing a very hard optimization problem, but their objective function is clear and easy to measure.  So they can try out new UI’s for 1% of users, and if it does well according to this well-defined metric, roll it out to a broader audience.  This is essentially best practice for any modern successful online company.

Google has done a lot to democratize the internet — notably by democratizing search through PageRank which allows anybody to implicitly vote on the relative merit of a web page.  They have also democratized the way some product development choices are made through through their policy of encouraging developers to build whatever they want in 20% of their time.  The result is that everything you can possibly imagine is probably being worked on by at least one googler, and the ideas with merit gain momentum and get built into real services.  But before they get launched to the public they still must be approved by a central authority.  Sure Google does A/B testing like everybody else, which is great for UI tweaks and to verify that new services won’t crash when hit with massive traffic.  But it’s extremely difficult to do A/B testing on major changes to functionality.  For example, it’s hard to imagine testing a change to how g-mail delivers mail through this kind of test.  Moreover, depending on how the test goes, the change is either rolled out to the entire user base or not at all.

Facebook’s platform offers another alternative.  ISV’s have the opportunity to offer major new kinds of functionality to Facebook users in a very democratic way.  Users can try out the new features, and if they like it, they’ll tell their friends about it, and the feature will spread.  Some features which are only appropriate for a certain segment of a user base can naturally find that segment.  This mechanism doesn’t really lower the cost of adding new functionality compared to how Google does it — Google is always launching new features that you’d never know about without reading their dozens of product blogs.  But it democratizes the process of figuring out which of these new features are valuable enough for a mass audience.  To continue with the democracy analog, these decisions are still made by a communist-style central-planning committee in Google’s world, whereas Facebook users can vote with their keyboards on what features are worth using.  This will make the Facebook platform very competitive in the arena of user’s attention.

  1. […]  Google’s Pagerank algorithm democratized web search.  Today’s most successful software is democratizing the feature set by allowing users to vote on how they want to use it.  The general principal is that large numbers […]

  2. […] could pick which UI extensions they wanted to use.  Any site which provides such an API has democratized the feature development process in a very important way.  Not only does it provide a distributed mechanism to figure out which […]