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a work in progress - curious abt thoughts here...
I remember reading that the Instagram founders purposefully studied the app store at the time and decided to fast follow Hipstamatic's filters, but free with social features. The other examples look right though. The other recent success, Vine, can arguably be said to have fast-followed GIFBoom/Cinemagram/etc also, but it looks like you meant LINE and not Vine :)
this is interesting... definitely agree with overall observation here but not sure all examples line up. the one area where I have seen a clear case of fast-follow strategy working on web and not working at all on mobile is with social games. Zynga's entire business was built on waiting to see which FB games start to take off, building a "CloneVille" and marketing the heck out of it. this totally and completely did not work for them on mobile, primarily because distribution channels are so different and also because its hard to dominate distribution to the same extent on mobile as on web.
Nice! I think it's fair to say that Mobile has changed the fast follower strategy. Given how many businesses all drew from or stole from another, it's hard to think a platform change would negate what seems to be tried and true. I still like how new platforms can make old ideas into new businesses. The one that comes to mind is Tinder. It's Hot or Not but the platform aspects of Mobile give it a new lease on life.
This is thought provoking. I largely agree but there are exceptions depending on the category (as Andrew mentioned some). It will be interesting to see how the messaging apps space play out.
I have a somewhat different thesis, http://blog.aweissman.com/2012/08/the-great-fragmentation.html
Dating apps seem to be an exception to this rule, thanks to the low barrier of the Facebook log-in. As a user, as long as the product is above a certain bar, it's all about hitting the growth curve at the time when the social buzz/ network effects haven't overpowered the quality of the early adopters. First Tinder, now Hinge, and then I'm sure something else - I have a similar product lifecycle expectation when it comes to new bars/ restaurants.
* on iOS approval process: Yes, the fact that if you got something wrong, updating can take a whole week increases your lead time to hit the app store - more testing, more checks for ensuring your future updates can be backward compatible with your in-app data models and cross-version interactions (think of user with a new sticker feature sending a message to a friend who doesn't have that the latest app version yet. you need to think through a lot here!). But its not just an iOS thing. Apps with good design and experience are just tougher to build very fast. Maybe it partly applies to today's websites as well.
* The impact of social probably applies to web as much as it does to mobile.
* I think your point that the friction in trying a new mobile app is more than what it is on the web (click on link vs hear from someone and install) deserves to be a separate bullet.
I think it would help make your point if we see examples of fast followers failing (poke is of course one, but I need more to be convinced :) ). Is it that people wait for longer to see if something is a fad or a valuable service and by then it looks too challenging to do a fast follow?
I think twitter is an unfair example to say "Mobile" killed the fast follower strategy. Andrew says Instagram was a fast follower. LINE - not sure if they are fast followers of KakaoTalk. Is MessageMe a fast follower?
BTW...check out CamCam - its like frontback for android. Certain categories of apps would have fast followers on different platforms or across geographies. We have a couple of uber-like apps for taxis in India (of course, Uber also just entered the scene here!).
While I generally agree with the supporting points, if you believe that the first mover has great adoption and lock-in -- so yes, you can just "cut & paste". That said, I think that smaller first-movers can still be overcome following one, or more, of these strategies:
1) New entrant is much better: A first mover can gets out maneuvered by an entrant with a vastly superior user experience, or one tailored to a subset of the larger market. This seems to happen in more "commodity" categories, such as payments, cameras, flashlights, food, journals, to-do lists, fitness, etc. For instance, MyFitnessPal and LoseIt (calories counters) both have more than 20MM downloads, putting them near the top of any mobile app list.
2) New entrant has a built-in audience: Incumbents from web that have entrenched audiences can easily blow away a small "mobile-only" app (e.g. Fab, Pinterest, CNN, ESPN, Groupon). Of course the app has to be good, and provide an extension of the core service.
3) New entrant "unbundles" mobile offering: As @aweissman has pointed out, when you can "verticalize" a horizontal offering, there is room for new entrants who specifically solve a subset of those problems (e.g. messaging apps vs. Facebook)
Additionally games (the largest mobile app category) have temporal lock-in, where there is some appeal in switching to the "latest & greatest", making any first mover constantly vulnerable.
I think it may depend a bit on what tactics we mean when we say fast follow. Apple does feature followers in the games category. Fast & Furious 6 was highly inspired by the success of CSR Racing. Running with Friends came after Temple Run, Subway Surfers, and many other endless runners. Both were featured by Apple.
In mobile games, I'd say fast follow is alive and well. This is especially true if your follow is an improvement in some potentially small but meaningful way - often called the +1 strategy. What arguably doesn't work is shipping a lower quality product with stronger distribution and then iterating like mad to close the quality gap. In my opinion, part of the reason this doesn't work well is the combination of app store editorial policy and community ratings. You are less likely to get featured if your app is flat-out lower quality at launch than that which has gone before AND users may even punish you for it with bad ratings which affects your overall organic distribution opportunity and inorganic conversion rates. Moreover it is very hard to iterate out of that hole and the app store approval window only exacerbates things. Even if you have a cross-promotion syndicate to throw against it, sub-par ratings can drag down conversion and devalue your distribution network power. On Facebook and the open Web, this is arguably less the case. Zynga for example was once capable of usurping the opportunity window of the first mover with its distribution power and then out iterating them on the quality front.
So, for games anyway, I think the +1 flavor of fast follow is still being employed successfully on mobile but the fast dev/fast iteration-dependent version is not. Perhaps it can be said that the "minimum viable" bar for a fast follow on mobile is higher?