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Essential Indexes and APIs

Lately, I’ve been thinking about which indexes have great value and who’s building them. The core indexes, in my opinion, are:

  1. People
  2. Places
  3. Things I (products)
  4. Businesses
  5. Documents

I’d probably add one more, Things II (products with the ability to communicate), that will be required for the Internet of Things.

Let’s take a look at the list and who’s got these indexes:

  1. People – Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft (Outlook and Active Directory), Twitter
  2. Places – Google, Here (the erstwhile Nokia map service), Factual
  3. Things I – Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, Indix
  4. Businesses – Dun & Bradstreet, FourSquare and Yelp to a certain extent
  5. Documents – Google, Microsoft

If you have a critical mass of any of these indexes, you are able to monetize them. Facebook and LinkedIn monetize their people directories through ads and/or subscriptions. Google monetizes its location services through ads whereas Here monetizes its service through subscriptions. Google and Microsoft monetize their document indexes in many ways – through email, apps and search, amongst others.

Creating a valuable index is hard. You need scale, structure and quality, for it to be useful and monetize-able. The indexes need to be global so they can serve the maximum number of people. And they need to be constantly updated and kept current.

Once you have an index of sufficient size and quality, it becomes an essential service for a whole universe of apps and use cases. It’s the essential service nature of these indexes that makes them so valuable. Take location (places) services as an example – it underpins everything from mobile commerce to self-driving cars.

In a world where every piece of software is becoming an API, these indexes will become the essential APIs that every other app or service will require.

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