Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

How is Front Porch Forum like an iPhone?

Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 by No comments yet

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch wrote today about Steve Jobs latest unveiling… the new iPhone, etc.  Here’s the part that stood out for me…

We had a grand debate today on the Gillmor Gang about the iPhone and its place in history. The most interesting part of the discussion for me was the “closed v. open” question. That’s because ultimately I believe the iPhone isn’t competing with Windows Mobile or RIM as much as Google’s upcoming Android, a very open mobile platform.

The iPhone is a closed system, with locked down hardware and platform, and rigid rules for outside developers. Android is all about open. And open is always better, right?

As we’ve seen with Macs v. Windows, and then the iPod v. everyone, closed systems can work. Users will trade price and flexibility in exchange for simplicity and elegance. That’s hard to do when you’re building software that will work across a broad range of devices, technologies and software providers. It’s easy to do when you control both ends of the system, and everything in between.

Ultimately I concede that Android may have a much larger market share than the iPhone. But I’ll argue that the iPhone users will be much happier, even as Apple makes obscene profits off of that smaller user base.

I love the iPhone for the same reason I love technology in general, and loved Disneyland as a child – it drives my imagination and makes me wonder what kind of magic to expect next. Also, it just works.

This reminds me of a recent conversation I had with someone asking for a comparison of Front Porch Forum to other services, such as Yahoo Groups, Ning and iNeighbors.

We have very specific goals with Front Porch Forum, so it’s not a wide-open system.  These other services offer a kind of blank slate on which group organizers can draw all sorts of great things for their individual members… or not.  Front Porch Forum’s mission is not so much  egocentric as it is neighborhood-centric.  We’ve made our design decision to date to optimize neighbor connection and the sense of community within a neighborhood or town.

And while we’re light years away from a giant such as Apple, thousands of our subscribers in our pilot metro area are ga-ga over their FPF neighborhood forum.  This would not be the case if we just offered an open-ended do-it-yourself kind of thing, like many other services.  We get comments like the quote above all the time, praising FPF’s simplicity and ease of use.

Posted in: Front Porch Forum, Social Networking, Stories

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