Google and Yahoo are the most obvious examples of companies that use Sticky Services to retain and build their customer base. They are constantly adding to their mix of services and functionality. Another thing they both do, is allow you to include functionality or not, which I am sure is another key attribute of Sticky Services. Users must have choice with the added functionality.
Note that these are proprietary companies, so Sticky Services isn’t exclusively a function of Open Source Software as you might expect. The ability and desire to release “early and often” is in my view, a function of OSS community development methodologies that have worked their way in culturally to modern day software companies.
Roboform is another great example of a company that uses Sticky Services to build their customer base. They have a new release about every two weeks with added functionality. Unlike “old school software companies” like Symantec, their upgrade process is easy and seamless. They are smart about it too in that they bring you to their site for the “free” update, so you get a brief look at their other products without being forced into them in any way. Look if you want, but if not, that’s fine.
Probably the most visible OSS company using Stick Services today is Firefox. They have a ton of features with new themes and extensions being developed and upgraded often due to their vibrant user and development community. They are a great example of OSS development and the fruits of it.
The aspect of Sticky Services and OSS in general that I am convinced “old school proprietary software companies” like Microsoft really don’t get about “modern day software companies” is that it is not the fact that the software is Open Source or Free that make this new generation of software compelling, it is about the user community and meeting their needs. Being end user focused and centric is everything. It’s about functionality and choice.
A great example is MS releasing their latest IE 7 [finally] this year. I will not switch from FireFox and I will be surprised if many others do. The reason is quite simple. My guess is that MS has probably taken the best FF functionality, enhanced it, and added it to their latest offering. That’s great and the software will probably even perform better for those functions. What they fail to understand however, is choice. It is quite probable that the average user may not want all or any of those features. For example, when I use Portable FireFox, I don’t use the same feature set that I use on my laptop. There are reasons, but I want the ability to scale functionality to meet the needs of my use case at the time.
I want the ability to decide for myself when and how I use software to fit my needs. I don’t need a “old school software company” deciding for me. Further, I want “loose functional coupling” for functionality. I want the ability to switch products or components easily with little impact on the overall functionality.
This is fundamental to modern software companies. Initiatives like SOA and ESB are based on concepts like these and will have a major impact on how software is licensed, serviced, and delivered from now on.