Web services and lock-in

The always-interesting Jon Udell posts about next-generation web services and data lock-in. It’s a topic we’ve considered at length at QuickBase, a web service that revolves entirely around helping customers make better use of their data.

Sure, it’s partly the nature of our service, but we’ve never considered not making it easy for customers to get their data out. We provide them with a number of different ways — either by saving to CSV, XML or programmatically through our HTTP API. Every page displaying more than one record has a “Save to spreadsheet” command.

We do this for two reasons:

  1. It’s a selling point.
    When you’re trying to convince customers to entrust you with their data and their applications, the idea that “you can always get it back out” is very comforting.
  2. If you’re really doing your job as a product, “lock-in” is about much more than holding customers’ data hostage.
    Typically, our customers use QuickBase to manage some kind of of process. It could be about running an event, managing an issues list, or running a project. Our customers get addicted when their process becomes embedded in QuickBase — through the email notifications they set up, the views they create, and the permissions they set up. They can always take their data somewhere else, but they lose the way their team can work with it. That’s the value QuickBase adds.

Ultimately, as a subscription service, we’re earning our customers money again each month. But if you’re really confident in the value your product creates, you know that “lock-in” happens when your customers can’t imagine working any other way.

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