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Developer platforms and diversity

If we think about how tech companies build products these days, we’ll realize many present a single model that they push onto the world. Companies like Facebook and Twitter model for how social interactions happen on the Internet. Others like Spotify, model how people produce and consume music and podcasts.

If we think about it further, we’ll realize that the approach is incompatible with the diverse world we live in. Diverse problems require diverse solutions. But what we get instead are solutions designed for a western-centric simplified version of the world, and we expect everyone to embrace them.

Having a simplified version of the world is convenient for the business. Still, it might lead to severe problems like the Myanmar genocide incited on Facebook or the e-scooter chaos in Berlin.

As someone who works in tech, this annoys me greatly, especially when the company prides itself upon its diversity efforts and building a product that rejects world diversity. How crazy is that?

I understand building as many product versions as nuances exist in the world would be cumbersome. Still, companies could focus on the domain’s core and provide a platform for developers to codify the diversity of the world. This is what Shopify does with its apps ecosystem. Shopify focuses on the business logic and primitives of e-commerce and provides developers with extension points on the platform to translate e-commerce to the meaning in their countries. I believe this is key to Shopify’s success, and it’s one of the reasons I like it working here.

Imagine Facebook doing something similar. They already have a platform with primitives, logic, and a complex graph of social interactions. Developers could build upon that to create social networks in their countries following their countries’ social norms and cultural nuances. I believe Jack aimed to do that with Twitter, but I can’t find the link to it.

So the takeaway I’d like to leave you with is that shaping products as platforms and providing APIs for developers is an exciting model to embrace the world’s diversity.