In today’s Web 2.0 world, many of us are so used to applications that link with other companies public application programming interface’s (API’s). We are so used to this functionality we are not even aware where one company’s software stops and another one’s starts. For example, how many web applications somehow integrate with Google Maps or Facebook? Countless sites link to Google Maps to provide, for example, directions to their location.
We take these public API features for granted in today’s increasingly online and connected world. Did we ever stop to think what would happen to a company that was almost completely relying on another company’s services for their product or service to function? What happens if the third party company went out of business?
These questions are all the more relevant because Google has announced the discontinuation as of September 14th 2011 of their Google Desktop product, as well as many other Google Labs products. Google Desktop was a desktop search program that indexed your computer and made searching for files much faster. Many companies integrated with this product to improve search within their software. Although the discontinuation of Google Desktop may not affect the online world, or severely impact many companies software, it does raise the question of what would happen if a service like Google Maps or Facebook was shutdown.
A good example of a company that relies heavily on third party application integration is Foursquare. Foursquare is a piece of software that lets you update and post your current location on Facebook via your smart phone. People can earn special badges, titles or even coupons for checking in at locations frequently. What attracts users to Foursquare is that Foursquare makes it easy to update your current location from your smart phone to your Facebook page. People also like earning titles, such as Mayor of powersolution.com, displayed on their Facebook page as well.
That is great, but what happens if Facebook suddenly shuts its doors down? What would entice users to keep posting their locations, or even better, where would they post to? Are foursquare and other companies integrating too deep with services like Google and Facebook?
I know that the probability of Facebook or Google shutting its doors down is slim, but it could happen. Companies that rely heavily or solely on integrating with third party software vendors need to have backup plans on what they would do and how they would position their software if a major Web 2.0 player suddenly shut its doors. Without this plan, it could mean the end for that company as well.