Sunday, July 13, 2008

Software as service: watch out for Data Lock

Every method of selling software has its own Dark Side.

Microsoft's traditional model favored proprietary data formats (Data Lock), feature mania until competition died, then forced obsolescence every 2-3 years.

Ad-supported software has to get us to look at the ads. If we stop looking, it will get more and more obnoxious. Data Lock helps ensure we can't escape, even as the pain level rises.

Software as a service has technical issues (Gmail was down a few days ago - again), but, above all, Data Lock is a terribly strong temptation. At least on the desktop there are local files that conversion software might run against.

Please note that while all three models suffer the Data Lock temptation, it's strongest in the "Software as Service" model.

So the Evernote example is worth remembering ...
Gordon's Tech: Evernote fails the critical software as service import/export test:

...So Evernote is not an option for my Palm to iPhone conversion, and I'd say it's not an option for anyone on any platform until they demonstrate Data Freedom...
In an important sense, this is not Evernote's fault. The startup has a large mission and limited resources. Their investors are not going to favor a single penny spent on Data Freedom, even if Evernote developers dislike Data Lock. The only way export will be developed is if customers make it an absolute requirement.

Customers don't do that.

In commerce as in politics, the fault lies within us.

Update: Google indexed this post within 30 minutes of first writing. (Evernote "data lock" is a fairly unique string.) If that doesn't give you goosebumps you need more imagination.

Update 2: A few hours later the CEO of Evernote responded, on a Sunday, with a comment to the Gordon's Tech post. They pledge serious commitment to Data Freedom, with APIs coming this summer.

I want to point out that these two things, the ultra-rapid indexing and the CEO response within hours, would be very hard to explain to a primitive from, say, 1993.

I'm also feeling chuffed now that Data Lock is no longer a novel concept. People are learning to worry, that's wonderful news.

Update 7/27/08: I warm to Evernote -- because it works now as a cache.

Update 10/3/08: Evernote has reformed, and Phil Libin has credibility again. They have an API and XML import/export. It's not the simple tab delimited format anyone can use, but that format is a poor match for Evernote's data complexity. Full credit for turning the corner!

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