On being a good internet citizen

I grabbed a quick coffee with Zendesk founder and CEO Mikkel Svane and his Australian manager Michael Hansenlast week where they told me about the company’s story to date.

One thing that stood out during the conversation was Mikkel’s comment about Zendesk being a good internet citizen.

Those traits of being a good online corporate citizen include open programming interfaces, a transparent culture and giving customers full access to their data.

Online companies have to embrace those principles if they are going to succeed and it’s the key to the fast growth of businesses like Zendesk and other cloud based services.

These principles have been the underpinning of the success of companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google.

What’s interesting with those companies is how they’ve moved away from those principles as they’ve grown and the pressures to ‘monetize’ have increased.

Abandoning those principles opens opportunities for many new players to disrupt the businesses of what have become the market incumbents.

With the pace of business accelerating, the assumption that companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter will retain their positions might be tested as the market moves to providers they can trust.

For those of us using cloud services, it’s worthwhile checking if you can easily connect your account to other services and how easy it is to transfer data to competitors.

Most importantly of all, is their service honest and open? If they mess customers around on outages or service calls, then they may be more trouble than they are worth.

If the answers to those three questions are “no”, then you might want to take your business elsewhere.

Those principles of being a good internet citizen may prove to be more important to online businesses than many of their managers and investors believe.

Paul Wallbank speaks and writes on how industries and societies are changing in this connected, globalised era. When he isn’t explaining technology issues, he helps businesses and community organisations through his business Netsmarts.

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