Thursday, October 29, 2009

StackExchange Needs an App Store

A few weeks ago, I created a StackExchange called Explain Business as fun side project. It's meant to be a site where entrepreneurs can ask questions about incorporation, accounting, legal stuff, employment issues, finding vendors, hiring, etc. Really, it's for all the boring but practical stuff no one ever teaches you. As a result, when it comes up, you have to ask an expensive lawyer or accountant.

So far, it's been very useful for me and a few of my former classmates to share startup tips and ask questions. I've been a huge fan of how well the platform is designed and how useful a tool it is to record knowledge. There are a few features I'd change here and there, but overall it is quite nice. I like my StackExchange.

I think StackExchange and FogCreek Software are on the verge of missing a really big opportunity though. While the original Stack Overflow caught on like wildfire, most of the StackExchanges seem to be sputtering and dying. In fact if you look at the 77 sites registered on StackExchanges Sites, only 5 seem to have achieved critical mass. Of those 5, some appear to be decelerating in activity.

FogCreek certainly has an interest in seeing many StackExchanges flourish so it can sell more licenses. Similarly Apple, has an interest in seeing it's iPhone developers flourish so it can sell more iPhones (and apps). When Apple launched it's app platform it created a concentrated distribution platform. This allowed it to ensure quality control, but also created a vibrant marketplace overnight.

To help StackExchange developers succeed, I'd suggest FogCreek implement an App Store where it can channel is huge collective audience (through Joel on Software and StackOverflow) to consumers who are looking for knowledge. FogCreek could be the Apple of knowledge applications. It's similar to what Philip Greenspun has proposed as a killer idea.

An App Store for knowledge communities could be a powerful thing. Right now there are some lists of StackExchanges here and here but nothing that drive significant adoption. Fog Creek will sill probably sell a bunch of licenses for StackExchange (especially for private company ones) regardless of what it does, but I think an App Store will help it become a truly transformative idea.

1 comment:

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