Why is “Innovation in Assembly” worth millions?

Picture: Paul Bica

Picture: Paul Bica

How could Innovation in Assembly lead to a multi-million dollar success story?

Maybe we should ask the recently successful 17 year old Nick Daloisio. His summarisation mash-up was just sold to Yahoo for an estimated $30 million.

What is Innovation in Assembly?

Tim O’Reilly attributes success in Web 2.0 to some common patterns. One of these,  Innovation in Assembly suggests that while the early technology success came from assembling hardware in innovative ways (think Dell computers), the Web 2.0 wave of success comes from innovative ways of assembling and offering services.

…. Web 2.0 will provide opportunities for companies to beat the competition by getting better at harnessing and integrating services provided by others. (O’Reilly, 2005)

One early adopter of this approach and still a leader is Twitter. Their innovative assembly was apparent from their original concept and early challenges back in 2004 through to launch in 2006 with broadcasts to the internet.  

In its basic form, Twitter is a public message service which allows people to send messages up to 140 characters. But that is just the beginning. After that, people can then follow others, utilise the information, and analyse the traffic on topics. The Twitter site has some clear explanations for tweeters, readers, business success stories and community causes.

The modern Twitter might have morphed from being a broadcast tool to a media digest tool but it is their strong participation in the burgeoning API (Application Programming Interfaces) space that gives it real Innovation in Assembly success and identifies it as one of the API giants

Picture: Vinoth Chandar

Picture: Vinoth Chandar

What is Twitter doing so successfully that gives it an estimated 250 million unique monthly visitors and ranks it as the second most popular social networking site after Facebook? Probably, ticking all the boxes for best practice in the Innovation in Assembly pattern.

How does Twitter deliver on Best Practice?

* Twitter not only offers an extensive range of API’s to their service but clearly delivers their core business strength through API’s based on the significant API traffic indicating the high value placed on the Twitter service.

* Twitter follows best practice in API’s by supporting the developer community with blogs, forums, and documentation and draws on Web 2.0 principles of open development and supporting their customers by implementing API’s in developer friendly REST.

* Twitter implements the best practice of offering the smallest unit of service which enables their customers to remix the service in user-centric ways.

* Twitter uses their platform to build customer trust and loyalty by giving advice and status on the platform and also lives their customers experience by ‘eating their own dogfood‘ and making Twitter.com a  client of their own API.

Picture: Rosaura Ochoa

Picture: Rosaura Ochoa

What API problems has Twitter experienced?  

Any organisation utilising API’s needs to carefully avoid the quicksand, and Twitter has had their own problems.

* Users of Twitter needed to develop and protect their own product, while exposed to changes from Twitter. A simple list of ‘my favourite Twitter sites’ circa 2008 demonstrates those who have survived, retired and gone missing in action. Open development is a competitive space and not for the feint hearted, but at least you can learn from the journey of others.

* Twitter itself needs to carefully consider their offering and their users. Since launching in 2006, Twitter had built up a large developer community with their first version of API’s so their changes in the Terms of Service in March 2013 upset some customers and killed some sitesTwitter may have changed their API for strategic or practical reasons, but these need to be carefully considered and managed.

Overall, Twitter has survived early start-up challenges, maturity changes and is still going strong. There must be some good lessons there for any business!

Twitters Britt Selvitelle explains the opportunity to harness the passion of innovation through Twitter in this Tedx video “Innovation of Twitter through scaling the back end architecture”.

UPDATE 13 April 2013: Twitter buys music app from Brisbane startup.

UPDATE 11 April 2013: Business Insider did an investigation of the Summly sale to Yahoo with some interesting insights on Innovation in Assembly and the start-up journey.


Related Posts:

Innovation in assembly – Twitter API: blog by Faisal HaKami

Innovation in assembly – Twitter API: blog by Audrey Oliveira

Innovation in assembly – Twitter API: blog by Ebracadabra

Innovation in assembly – Twitter API: blog by Edie Cheng


O’Reilly, 2005. ‘What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software‘.
Retrieved on 23 March 2013 from http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=1

Financial Review, 2013.  ‘How to avoid social media death‘. Retrieved on 25 March 2013 from http://www.afr.com/p/boss/how_to_avoid_social_media_death_ZQZSUjnPKo59lBobf0VngK