Sometimes it makes sense to go new, other times it makes sense to reinvent the old.

This happens all the time in software.  Sure, I could refactor this, but I could also just rebuild it all together.  Hmm…  It’s also generally easier for a designer to dramatically alter design, making it their own.  But if you change too much, it’s ‘new’.  And if you’re building something people need to use, you’ve got to sell them on the new way of doing things.  That’s asking people to change habits, and habits die hard.  Think how hard it is to quit smoking, not only is it an addiction, it’s actually a habit!

Take the latest big things:

  • Twitter (it’s blogging, but for when you don’t have much to say)
  • Facebook (it’s just a better friendster, hi5, myspace, etc)
  • Google (a better altavista, lycos, yahoo)
  • OSX (a better vista)
  • Amazon

Seth posted today, ‘Gravity is just a theory‘.

Everyone ‘believes’ in gravity

The top 3 in that list are examples of taking one’s previously defined theory of ‘gravity’ and reinvented it.  Twitter just grabbed a niche for those looking for a way to blog short, concise updates.  Where a blog previously failed, twitter came in and complimented it.

Facebook just took a concept that others were mediocre at, and reinforced it and made it better.  There is nothing new and novel about social networks, or groups, or friends or connections online.  Facebook just made it way better.  And they incorporated a very successful viral network to grow so quickly such that noone could keep pace.

Google didn’t have to reinvent or introduce anything new, they just came along and turned a broken system (existing, biased and influenced search engines) and made something unbiased and useful.  Word of mouth and a good system was all they needed.  No “this is what we do, and this is why you need us” messaging was needed.

Later on, Seth states:

Evolution is really slow.

Amazon on the other hand, is evolution.  It wasn’t overnight success for these guys.  Sure, they may have been selling product from early on, but it took huge investment and a lot of time for a movement and people’s habits to change.  Amazon bet on those habits changing, and that paid off.  Amazon now enjoys a healthy dominance in the market.  It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t cheap.

Ultimately, if building new means you need to change habits, and get your market to abandon a previously believed story, then you are taking the hard road.  Potentially a much bigger payout at the end, but much more risk.

So, if you’re looking to make a quick buck, jump on bandwagons, and rebuild and sell gravity as a better gravity.

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