As themes for conferences go, Points of Control is one of our favorites. Our industry over the past year has been driven by increasingly direct conflicts between its major players: Apple has emerged as a major force in mobile and advertising platforms; Google is fighting off Microsoft in search, Apple in mobile and Facebook in social; and Facebook itself finds itself on the defensive against Twitter and scores of location startups like Foursquare.
Nor are the Internet’s biggest players the only ones in the game – the rise of tablet computing has revived nearly every major hardware and handset manufacturer, and the inevitable march of online payment and commerce has roused the financial services giants as well. You know we’re in interesting times when American Express is considered an insurgent in its own industry.
The narrative is so rich, it struck us that it lends itself to a visualization – a map outlining these points of control, replete with incumbents and insurgents – those companies who hold great swaths of strategic territory, and those who are attempting to gain ground, whether they be startups or large companies moving into new ground. Inspired in part by board games like Risk or Stratego, and in part by the fantastic and fictional lands of authors like Tolkien and Swift, we set out to create at least an approximation of our industry’s vibrant economy. (And yes, we give a hat tip to the many maps out there in our own industry, like this one for social networks).
The result of our initial efforts is pictured above, you can go to the complete map here. We very much consider this to be “for your consideration,” an initial sketch of sorts, a conversation piece that we hope will garner a bit of your cognitive surplus. In other words, we designed the map so you can give it input and make it better. Over time, we plan to revise the visualization, adding various layers of companies and trends.
But you have to start somewhere. We put a stake in the ground by declaring a number of key “points of control” and visualizing them as land masses.
From top to bottom, and in reasonably defensible order: We start with the Clouds of Infrastructure, securing the top of the map. We then cross the Oceans of OS and UI to The Platform Plateau, where you’ll find those aforementioned hardware players. From there you’ll see two major “continents” of service providers, groups of companies that leverage cloud, OS/UI, and hardware platforms to deliver the services we now take for granted.
The continent on the left consists of location, social, identity and activity stream services. On the right is the continent of search, commerce, and content services. If you feel like the two are interrelated, you’re certainly not alone. We had to fight the temptation to create a Pangea, if only for aesthetic purposes.
Below the service layer is what might be called the firmament of marketing – the SubContinent of Advertising Platforms that have provided much of the oxygen to the networked economy so far. And off to the right of that is Enterprise Island, an important land mass to be sure, but one that could certainly command its own map (and may well, in time).
All these masses interact with each other, a fact you will see by the various arrows indicating how owners of one territory – Apple in Mobile, for example – are pushing into new strategic points of control – Apple in advertising platforms, for example.
Built on top of Google’s map API, this initial map has two layers of detail. Zooming in from the initial view one can see a second layer where more details emerge, including pods of insurgents headed for the beaches of various territories. We’ve also thrown in a few jokes, to keep things light, and encourage you to add yours in comments.
In the coming weeks, we plan to add a game of sorts – we’ll be asking you to lay out which companies the incumbents should be buying as they circle each other across this landscape. From the tiny to the massive, we’d like to see who you think will be snatched up next.
For now, we know that we have certainly missed things – probably a lot of things. And no doubt our initial choices of players, and the amount of territory they control, is worthy of debate (as is, most likely, our sense of humor). That’s why we want your input. We’ve created a commenting layer throughout the map, and we will be incorporating your input into future revisions. We’re not happy with the name for the Location Based Services territory, for example, and we’re still trying to figure out how to deal with the carriers (who isn’t!?).
We’ve put the entire map under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, which means we want you to take this idea and add to it, making it better. Once our amazing development partners at Blend Interactive catch their breath, we also plan to release the code and documentation, so you can create your own maps as well.
Our thanks to the team at Blend who worked with me to bring this vision to reality, and to Janetti Chon, my producer, who kept it on track, and the entire team at Web 2.0 for bearing with us as we brought this first iteration to fruition.
Points of Control: The Map by Web 2.0 Summit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.