We are pleased to introduce a 7-part series on Modular Innovation, written by Jeremy Horn – The Product Guy. Jeremy is a product management, strategy, and technology consultant. He is the founder and organizer of The Product Group, a New York-based monthly meet up for Product People. Over the past decade, Jeremy has founded numerous successful and award winning start-ups. You can read more about him on The Product Guy blog.
Modular Innovation can be briefly described as the products and platforms consisting of or facilitating…
- Relationships (people-people, products-products, people-products)
- Control of Experience (from creation to storage to interaction)
- Ownership of Content (personal content from comments to friend lists and more)
You can also see the trend, itself, being referred to as “Modular Innovation,” much in the same way the term “Web 2.0” is still used today.
The products and concepts that constitute Modular Innovation are those that connect, enable, produce, enhance, extend, and make use of these relationships and, in turn, users’ online experiences with them.
Modular Innovation is increasingly everywhere these days…
… and many more products, forms, and methodologies.
For the rest of the article, I will walk us through the path of the online product from a time before the prevailing trend of Modular Innovation to today, and set the scene for what is to come.
Web Problems 2.0
It’s hard today to find an online product that hasn’t in some way been touched by Modular Innovation. You might look to the old blogs as a pre-Modular Innovation, with their initial incarnation as log-oriented websites, and the most rudimentary relationship common between website and website visitor of the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 eras.
Some products still holding fast to the ways of the Web 1.0 and 2.0 worlds…
Web 1/2.0 Products
Missing Modular Innovation…
A forward thinking legal 2.0 product leveraging the UGC of the legal community, but starkly lacking a public API allowing for the accelerated growth of the community by way of 3rd party apps for participating
Turbo Credit Solutions
All the entered information is one way; there is no extracting of entered financial information or connecting to any of the services it purports to help with, nor any other desktop- or web-based financial tools
Fun and wonderful experience, but lacks any sort of ties to the outside world beyond its basic screenshotting functionality; it could, for example, allow for the creation of accounts, remember expressed views and comments, allow users to save these comments, allow for a widget that can be inserted on websites of recently reviewed / rated items
Interestingly … A Flickr
The very popular product, Flickr, launched at the start of the Web 2.0 age has prospered, in no short order due to its understanding of the importance of interconnectivity and relationships, built into its early foundation. Flickr demonstrated a unique foresight into what would propel it onward through Web 2.0 and beyond, by embracing many of the, at the time yet defined, underpinnings of Modular Innovation.
Building upon the pre-Modular Innovation archetype of blogs, discussed in the previous section, the Modular Innovations that are blogs today are now seen with clear characteristics of Modular Innovation like…
- Allowing bloggers to download / export their content (and often upload it to other locations and competing blog platforms)
- Connecting Twitter and Facebook in various manners
- Permitting bloggers to drop-in custom plugins and even full commenting sub-systems
In Web 2.0, we had looks, feels, AJAX and communities. Through Modular Innovation, we have relationships, modular products and other services that facilitate the relational parts… all the components, and the Internet environment within which they, Modular Innovations, thrive.
A Modular Innovation can be small, a feature or mini-mini-product, or large, a module-connector service, a social network. Modular Innovations alone, and more so when combined, lead to users’ information that is increasingly…
- Redundant / Replicated
…and, basically, their own, the users’, to do with as they wish, to control via the Modular Innovation(s) within their personally controlled online user environment -a user experience both open and dynamic.
Modular Innovation puts the people in control – of their content and their interaction with it. The people can easily share their data, export it, import it, customize privacy, across different social networks, products and other environments. Their data becomes modular, flexible, and portable. Users’ experiences consist of many modules that make up their total user experience. Content and functionality, with greater Modular Innovation becomes further decentralized across these modules, each providing a single, small or large, set of abilities or experiences, that together break down the walls (silos) that are the proprietary platforms, and empower the people, the users of the Internet, to be in charge of their data and their experience.
As modules leverage open standards, people are increasingly able to publish their content to multiple destinations, manage their content across a variety of products. As Modular Innovations relationally increase so too decreases, as is being seen by way of
- Facebook Connect,
- Twitter @Anywhere,
… the need to re-find friends, or re-re-re-publish one’s content, as well as port and integrate their personal, content creations with other services, other Modular Innovations. Modular Innovations are increasingly empowering the user through the enabling of greater flexibility and control of interaction with the user’s own data. Data that, through more and more Modular Innovation, is becoming …
- increasingly portable,
- increasingly integrated,
- increasingly customizable.
Products that are or facilitate Modular Innovation are the ones that have proven themselves among the most persistent and continue to gain increasing acceptance in the current evolution of the social and interactive relationships of the Internet.
There already exist many complex frameworks actively being developed and evolved that will definitely be major influences in shaping the course of Modular Innovation. These modules, or Modular Innovations, can represent a single or group of features and functionality, or a service or framework that augments or allows for new inter-module relationships to be established.
- A Modular Innovation often described as a framework that “allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.” aka Semantic Web
- A Modular Innovation that represents an image oriented feature set that allows for the easy connectivity to and from other resources as well as the inclusion of the production functionality within and between other Internet products. aka Flickr
Through combining and connecting and customizing modules, an owner, a user, is in control to customize their full experience and interaction with their own content as well as that of others.
Through the connectivity and relationships of modules, users’ ownership of the content that flows through is also strengthened, as well as those relationships among the people with each other and the Modular Innovations with which each interacts.
As the tendrils of Modular Innovation deepen and spread, the user experience becomes progressively more defined by the modules and the relationships between the modules and the individuals using them, not the network or any single product (or feature).
Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!
The Product Guy