Winning isn’t about stickiness. Over the long term, the web services that win will be the best, winning by virtue of features and ability to please users. Businesses that try to win by trapping users like flies will lose to those that trust their customers to choose the best product, and trust themselves to provide the best product.
Example: disqus comment platform. I am using this on my Hidden Evidence blog, but not on this personal blog. Why? Because I am worried about data portability and the longevity of disqus. (See the first comment on this post testing the disqus system and voicing my concerns).
Disqus is awesome, it leverages the network effect for blog commenting, benefiting long tail blog owners (myself) and widely read blog readers and commenters (same me, different hat). As a blogger, I benefit from scale in commenting, user verification, and spam management. As a blog reader, I benefit from ease of commenting, and a centralized dashboard for my participation across the blogosphere.
Disqus is limiting and scary, it requires I entrust a critical portion of my blog (comments) to a third party, without any tools to switch between self management and hosted management. What if disqus goes away? Gets bought by someone else, who decides to charge, or degrades the service? They provide basic export tools, but that does me no good – I need the comments to stay with the posts.
Data portability should be designed in - if I knew disqus didn’t want my data as a tool to hold onto me, but instead wanted to earn my trust every day by being the best at blog comment management, I would jump on board in a heartbeat. Instead I’m testing the water, and have lingering concerns. Every web app should answer this fundamental need. Because if they don’t, others will come along that do. And they will win.
It’s all about trust – and trust must be earned, not won.