Vendors love things that make their product sticky. If developers really appreciated this software products would be even more sticky. Instead developers hate sticky; they call it things like “backward compatiblity” or “legacy.” Maintaining the sticky bits is a pain. Platform developers have the worst of it because the software that stands on the platforms was written by very very clever dudes who find and depend on every curiosity of your API. The software those clever guys write is extremely brittle. The platform’s vendor has to work very very hard to maintain every bizzare detail.
When I switched to Word Press my web server logs suddenly blossomed in a torrent of broken links. I’d arranged to reroute the obvious links before the switch over. But, it turns out that my site’s users are as devious about finding interfaces into my blog as platform developers. It looks a bit like every URL that you could possible generate for reaching into the blog was used by somebody. This was particularly hairy for the various subscription feeds. I notice that a lot of subscription readers aren’t particularly interested in paying attention when my server notifies them that a resource has moved. So now I’m serving up the subscription feeds from the old locations. I wonder how many subscribers I lost during the service interuption?
The backward compatiblity breakage that I didn’t see comming was with Google. All my page names changed to something new and so Google’s model of what’s on my pages evaporated. All my Google ads suddenly became extremely lame. Imagine how sticky things would be if you depended on the revenue from such ads.
The third interface where backward compatiblity is turning out to be very rough is the blog author user interface. I don’t mind switching to a new user interface. Somethings are better, some are worse. But what about the other folks? The folks who’s blogs I host. I think they are going to hate it. In general they get to suffer the cost of changing but for them the benefit of the switch over is pretty obscure. In particular the photo upload in Word Press is much more tedious. Imagine if those people were paying me for their blog hosting?
I used to think that the #1 thing to worry about in buying software was that I would be able to rescue my data, retire the software, and adopt something else. Apparently in the modern world software embedded in the marvalously messy open platform that is the Internet it’s much more complex. We are all platform vendors now.