Competition from Parallel Paths
If you were asked to enumerate the competition to Google Reader when it first launched, you would probably list products like Bloglines and NewsGator… in short, other feed readers. I don’t think anyone would have pictured Twitter as being competitive to Google Reader originally, and even today the two products are very different from each other.
Yet, Twitter has completely ended my Google Reader usage. Twitter is faster, more respectful of my time, easier to scan, and doesn’t keep a guilt-inducing “unread” count. And, many people have said the same thing.
But, the real point of this post is the larger trend of how competition works in web services. In a specific product niche (such as feed readers) a product is either a leader or a follower. There is some jockeying for position between leaders and followers (such as Google Reader overtaking Bloglines), but that’s all a distraction from the truly disruptive competition which will likely come in from the bottom-up, looking like a toy.