Growing app ecosystems

On Hacker News I came across a thread with some good insight into app developer experience at Shopify:

The interesting thing about app ecosystems is that, in a way, they’re similar to social networks from a creator perspective: App developers and creators are trying to build a following/customer base on a new platform.

For example, on Youtube, Instagram, etc., the elite with the biggest followings get the attention, making it hard for new creators to build a significant following after the winners are established.

The same thing happens in app ecosystems (Shopify, WordPress, etc.). Within each category the winners have the most reviews/installs, which means more sales, which means paying for better placement/advertising, etc. The nature of these ecosystems exacerbates the power law.

However, that’s what made TikTok so revolutionary. They approached it differently:

Alex Zhu, Head of Product at TikTok, likens the process to creating a new country and giving a greenfield of opportunities to a new class of creators.

The above excerpt is from this article, which is a great overview of the rise of TikTok.

In previous eras, most of the spoils went to the platform’s earliest adopters – mining value gets harder as the platform ages. TikTok, on the other hand, promotes all content regardless of who made it or how many followers [social capital] they have.

The above excerpt is from this writeup from Casey Newton.

It’s not exactly comparable since apps are different than content in terms of the costs of a poor recommendation. But there may still be something to learn here for those growing app ecosystems by jumpstarting with disenfranchised developers hungry for new places to build and establish themselves.