User Created Competition
There's something about our world today that has started to get to me. It seems like everything that is put out there is released to be a competitor to another product. But if it's not expressly identified by the way the product works, then its users decide the applicable competitive designations for them. Great example to start out with is one close to home, the user created battle between Facebook and MySpace. If you were to look at any of Mark's interviews, then you wouldn't find an answer more than "I guess we are," when it came to the question of Facebook being MySpace's direct competitor. Sure, I'm all up for kicking MySpace's ass in a bowling match, but on the subject of vision and reason for being, we're drastically different. I'm sure both Chris Dewolfe and Mark Zuckerberg have different reasons for running their respective product offerings. I just happen to know Mark's point of view first hand.
It's that user created competition that "Facebook is better than MySpace," or vice versa, that fuels a lot of us at work. But it also seems to create some unnecessary bad blood between the two companies and its users. I can't say I haven't been the victim of spouting a few MySpace jokes lately (like getting four whole pictures to add to your profile if you buy their album). Then you look at companies like, Coke and Pepsi or Yahoo and Google, and you know why they're at each other necks. You know why they're out to kill each other. They're direct competitors on a much larger scale, releasing products in unison with slightly different features. But it's the users that fuel the fire, just like two soccer teams in Europe or South America or when it comes to the Oakland Raiders versus any other team in the NFL.
Humans live off competitive comparison. Things cannot co-exist without having some type of competitive nature tied to them. Closer to our world, there are many, many examples of this. Take the beloved stat-whore applications, Mint and MeasureMap. I remember talking to some friends the day Mint was announced, and once Shaun's creation was mentioned, Veen's was as well. A lot of us had no idea what was in store for MeasureMap until a lucky few saw their preview at the last Web 2.0 conference. Other examples include anything that 37signals creates and their prospective competitors that either come out before or after the signals' offering.
But competition is known to drive people to achieve new things, even as far as driving some crazy. Competition is healthy, but notice in all the examples that none of the entities actually said who their competition was - it was the users that created these links. Most companies can just shrug their shoulders, but there are a good number that use the competition to fuel development and advertising activities. So when creating something, make sure you know that your users, readers and viewers will be using their leverage (their opinion) to create competition for you. How you use it, is a different story.