I was joking with Rundle last week about what would happen if all the designers and developers in the Network got together for a weekend and copied the 37signals suite of products and then we just released everything for free. Now I am sitting here and that thought really isn’t that funny because I am wondering why nobody has done this yet? All of their products are simple and I’m sure most developers who have used them are thinking to themselves that they could do something just as simple in a short amount of time.
We see copycat sites all the time. There are tons of new “Diggs” popping up because development time is much shorter with online websites and applications than what we are used to seeing with desktop apps. So where are the 37signals clones? Also, has Fried ever thought about the possibility of someone releasing their products for free? He preaches building products people are willing to pay for, but what happens when your product is released for free? What do you do then?
Copycat sites have the disadvantage of being second, third or fourth to the market so usually the first entry is the one that reaps the rewards of advertising. When your business model is based on subscriptions you are almost depending on a lack of competition because things get a bit difficult once you are getting undercut with regards to pricing. Now when I say “free” what I am talking about is having the source downloadable where people can simply install it on their own servers. If you want to do a hosted model you could still sell advertising and run things for free or you could simply just do it cheaper than 37signals and add your own features.
Is it just me or is it crazy to think that the 37signals business model could be wiped away by one weekend of hard work between a group of developers? Well obviously it wouldn’t happen in one weekend, but what I mean is it all could start from just one weekend of work. Help me out because I feel I am missing something here.
UPDATE: People are saying you can’t build Basecamp in a weekend and that really isn’t the point of the entry. Consider a weekend to be a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, I don’t care. Also this could apply to anyone that has created a service like 37signals, but they are the only ones that pop up into my mind. And unless 37signals decides to enter the content space I don’t have any plans of competing with them.
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