Posted November 04, 2010
Killer platforms need killer apps. A great platform by itself isn’t that interesting or useful. It takes killer apps to attract customers and define the platform.
Since the computer industry hit its stride we’ve seen a number of examples of killer platforms and killer app duos. 1000s of financial workers bought the Apple II platform on the the strength of VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3. Once Facebook opened up their platform, 1000s of applications and services were written, most worthless, but social gaming company Zyanga has made 100s of millions of dollars from games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Apple’s App Store has introduced millions to the “app lifestyle” through its various iOS devices.
In the world of the Drupal platform, many people think Drupal distros are becoming the “killer apps” of Drupal. They (and I) believe that these distros / applications will help Drupal attract new customers in new markets. Popular distros, such as Open Atrium and OpenPublish, are starting to show that this model can work as they and other distros are receiving attention far outside the normal channels and communities which discuss Drupal.
For the past year or so, I’ve been working on building a Drupal distro called Eduglu, which is a social learning product designed to support groups of learners. Similar to Drupal, my company’s product Eduglu is a platform. As part of developing the platform I’ve built a number of apps for it such as a forum/mailinglist, polls, etc.
But while these are nice apps and I’m really pleased about how the platform is coming together, I feel that Eduglu is still missing its set of killer apps.
Many people look at Eduglu now and think “meh”, “what does it do”, they ask, “that existing education / community platforms don’t already do?”
And… I can’t really answer that question. Not yet anyways. Eduglu is still missing its killer app that for 1000s of organizations will become the reason that they must adapt Eduglu as their learning platform. Something like email that for millions of companies and households was the “reason” they signed up for Internet.
So recently, I’ve made a prediction to myself, that Eduglu will become a success only if a large number of apps are built on top of the platform.
But luckily, I don’t have to rely entirely on people building apps specifically for Eduglu. In Dries Buytaert’s (founder of Drupal) first post on Drupal distributions four years ago, he said that for Drupal distributions to succeed, they must collaborate not compete. That Drupal distros can’t fork Drupal core or otherwise introduce incompatibilities between themselves.
And happily, that is what has happened. Through the efforts of many in the Drupal community, particularly Development Seed, it is possible to take an application written for one Drupal distro and reuse it across multiple other distros. And one very interesting effort, Debut, is working to build a common set of applications specifically designed to serve as base applications for a variety of Drupal distrubutions.
So this has left me, Eduglu, and other Drupal distros in a nice spot. Many people are working together to build reusable apps and Drupal, particularly with the upcoming Drupal 7 release, has developed into a very nice framework for building web applications.
So I have two items now on my roadmap for Eduglu.
And while predicting in advance what is or isn’t a “killer app” is difficult, I have a few ideas up my sleeve. First on the list is a realtime notetaking app built with Drupal and Etherpad. Students will be able to take notes together, attach audio recordings of the lecture and other media files, and save all of this to the class website where it’ll it can be referred to in the future.
And if you already know what you’re killer app for learning is and just need someone to build it then by all means, please contact us! We’d be happy to help :)
Kyle Mathews lives and works in Berkeley building useful things. You should follow him on Twitter