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Great article on different types of “Platforms”

Read this and get smarter: blog.pmarca.com: The three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet.

The fastest summary:

  • A Level 1 platform’s apps run elsewhere, and call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services — this is how Flickr does it.
  • A Level 2 platform’s apps run elsewhere, but inject functionality into the platform via a plug-in API — this is how Facebook does it.  Most likely, a Level 2 platform’s apps also call into the platform via a web services API to draw on data and services.

  • A Level 3 platform’s apps run inside the platform itself — the platform provides the "runtime environment" within which the app’s code runs.

And which companies are working on Level 3 platforms, other than Marc’s Ning?

  • Salesforce.com
  • SecondLife
  • Amazon (through AWS)
  • Akamai

I think the really interesting part of a Level 2 and Level 3 really has to do with user acquisition – they allow you to absorb a huge torrent of traffic if your application is designed to hook into their API deeply enough to create viral loops of your own.

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