“Open” Platforms Featured Pattern: P1384 August 2019

Author: Rob Edmonds (Send us feedback.)

Across industries, organizations are developing open platforms that benefit specific companies.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

Using open interfaces and standards to develop an ecosystem around a vendor's closed, for-profit software is a fairly well-established tactic in the tech industry; however, the tactic is spreading as tech firms move into new industries and as companies from outside the tech industry move into software development.

Facebook (Menlo Park, California) is mixing open and closed standards with the forthcoming Libra cryptocurrency. Libra will run on the open-source Libra Blockchain developed by the Libra Association (Geneva, Switzerland)—a new nonprofit organization of which Facebook is a member. Although Facebook will not profit from Libra itself, it conceived of the currency in conjunction with plans to benefit from Libra-based digital payments (and perhaps other financial services) via its messaging platforms, including WhatsApp Messenger and Facebook Messenger. Facebook has set up the Calibra subsidiary to realize the opportunity.

The Goldman Sachs Group (New York, New York) has traditionally kept much of its technology a closely guarded secret, but it is now making open source some of the code that it uses to price securities and analyze and manage risk. However, the company's goal is far from altruistic: Goldman Sachs is offering $100,000 in annual funding for engineers to use the open-source code in the development of new applications and will not only own the intellectual properties that engineers develop but also have early opportunities to invest in technologies with strong potential.

In the manufacturing sector, BMW (Munich, Germany) and Microsoft (Seattle, Washington) have announced a collaboration to develop the Open Manufacturing Platform. The companies say that they want to build a partner network and develop an open technology framework for smart-factory solutions, including standard interfaces for machine connectivity and systems integration. This open platform will likely rely on Microsoft's Azure cloud software, which is not open source.

DLive (Cupertino, California) offers a blockchain-based livestreaming service that recently attracted YouTube (Alphabet; Mountain View, California) celebrity PewDiePie. The company says that its blockchain-based approach puts "platform ownership in the hands of the users" (https://community.dlive.tv/about/welcome-letter). However, DLive is a for-profit company that hopes eventually to monetize the platform through advertising or premium services.