Of course I 'm very happy that Pete wrote about us, but I disagree with some of the points he makes, not just as they relate to eSnips, but generally to the industry and to other services.
For those with the patience to track the argument, I 'm writing here why I think broad services have more potential than specialized (though both are huge), and why mashups aren't appropriate for everything.
Here are my points:
1. There is a market for specialized services AND a market for sites that provide a wide range of services (and yes, I agree that the case is often that each of these services may , taken separately, be less professional than the ones offered by the specialized service). Where I disagree with Pete is the question of which one has a broader market and user need. I belive that the specialized one has a smaller market, and the one providing a broader range of service has a far bigger market .
As much as we don't want to admit it , convenience dominates our lives. That is, for most of what I want to do, I'll prefer the most convenient service that requires the least hassle. People won't go the extra mile and inconvenience to go to the specialized place unless they have an all-consuming hobby or specialization. Examples:
Take shops. You can go to a shop that specializes in running equipment, or you could go to a sports shop that may have less professional experience but provides you with a broader range of products so you will not have to go from one store to the other. A small percentage of us, the professional runners, may never step into a super sports shop, but for the rest of us, it's the most convenient way to shop when you find all the things you need in one place rather than having to drive from one store to the other. When you look for something that you know is specialized, you go to the specialized store.
Google is another good example. There are tons of specialized search engines, that would get you better, more specific information but most people, including me, prefer to go to the one place where they would get most of what they want.
Third example is Myspace. A big appeal in MySpace , and one of the reasons people left Friendster and moved to Myspace, is the ability to share a broader range of things. dana boyd in her fascinating essay 'Friendster Lost Steam. Is MySpace just a fad?' points out that one of the reasons people left Friendster and moved to Myspace was that Myspace enabled them to share a much broader range of things: Here's the quote:
"The limited amount of things people could share made this difficult on Friendster; people mostly shared profiles as cultural currency and testimonials did allow for some marking of turf and social hierarchy. Yet, on MySpace, there are a bazillion things to find deep in the nooks, allowing lots and lots to be shared. Allowing media in comments and the ability to share video/pictures via profiles enhanced this. have one place."
2) The context for everything that I worte above is , of course : what is the reason I go to a site. If I want to be entertained, or if I filmed a totally funny video , then I would probably go to Youtube. But when I want to share stuff on an onging basis, I prefer the convenience of one place , where everything is made convenient for me, and people come to me.
In this sense, you could say, well email is probably what eSnips competes against, and I think there's a point to address here too.
Regarding mashups, don't misunderstand me, I'm all for mashups, but they're sometimes appropriate and sometimes not. Also, if you take it to the extreme you create companies that suddenly become back-end service providers to other companies and have no choice other than to charge for their services. If I accept Pete's theory of how things should be, then the more services integrate Flickr, the less Flickr can create a community and value of its own . Taking this to the extreme, it will become a back end with high storage and bandwidth costs and no way to make a living other than to charge for its service.
The more you want to provide a consistent user experience the more you will use another company's API, and as you do that, you may even get to a point where this other company is totally transparent to the end user. For example, if you want to avoid asking your users to have an account in Flickr too, you use API's to create an account for them; the more you do that , the more users become totally unaware of their existence. Opening up APIs is something the giants can afford. Small companies doing that have to either rely on charging for being a backend or disappearing.
I love these discussions, but I think that eventually we're all surprised by the things that do end up working, and we 're all much better at explaining in retrospect why some things worked and others didn't , than we are at predicting it in advance. That's not to say that I don't participate in this sport. Perhaps I'm totally over opinionated about it.