Cutthroat competition is as old as business in the corporate world offline, and the nothing has changed when it comes to competing online. The days when a company like Facebook or Google could rise to popularity and achieve dominance while flying under the radar are gone. Create something that works and it’s only a matter of time before a larger competitor tries to imitate the idea.
Perhaps cyberspace is getting overcrowded and running short of novel ideas. These days an idea hardly gets sufficient time to grow and mature. The moment a company achieves success there’s a long line of competitors that are willing to go to any length to establish a similar platform.
All is fair in love and war, though, even if it’s a cyberwar. The rules are not much different. Actually, in the struggle to survive there are no rules or ethics. Everything is meant to be broken—be it trust, ethics or word of mouth reputation.
A recent example is the case of Twitter withdrawing access to its data API from third-parties so it can expand its own big data analytics services. This has come as a shock to many companies like Datasift whose entire business revolves around the data flowing from Twitter. Legally and technically speaking Twitter has every right to withdraw its own API. It’s another question entirely, though, whether doing so without warning or notice is ethically justified. After all Twitter had been promoting its API very aggressively over the past few years and now it has suddenly taken a u-turn on the issue.
Another case of cutthroat competition is Zynga. The company announced that Mark Pincus, the founder of Zynga, is returning to the role of CEO. The tales of his work culture are horrifying indeed. Even more concerning is the fact that the company has been openly copying successful games of other companies with minor variations. Zynga has market presence and financial muscle over small rivals so this is not good news for other gaming companies.
There’s no doubt that Silicon Valley is a major force to reckon with in this world but possibly the axiom of power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely seems to apply. If scenarios like those mentioned above are to be taken as a glimpse into the future, it is certainly not a very bright one—at least not for smaller startups and rivals competing online.