Topic 3 Posts

product

We’re not building a web browser, The Browser Company

Apparently Arc is going to build "A New Computer." Curious to see what that means.

We’re not building a web browser, The Browser Company

The Browser Company told us the browser was broken, which it is, and they are trying like hell to make it not suck.

One thing I have enjoyed about using & following Arc over the last few years is that they ship shit. The put new things out into the world. They take creative swings at solving web browsing problems. They'll even preview working software to get feedback on.

It's why this video, to me, feels so out of place. The ambition is exciting to see, for sure. However, the hype they are trying to create feels desperate.

Anytime I see a hype video espousing future conceptual ideas, I think back to this Joe Spolsky post from (gulp) 20 years ago.

In my personal life, I have a policy lifted from Marlon Brando, playing a mob boss in The Freshman: “Every word I say, by definition, is a promise.” The best way to avoid breaking promises is not to make any, and that’s as good a reason as I need not to talk about future versions of our products. 

The Browser Company has been telling us for 4 years now that the browser is broken (it is). They rooted a real, tangible problem in a real tangible product. It's why I'm using it. Heck it's even written right on their site...

At the Browser Companywe're building a better way to use the internet. When we think about browsing the internet, we often ignore the browser itself.

Now the message is that they "don't want to build a browser" but that they "want to build a new computer" and that their reach could be "massive" and a "platform that is just as big as the internet." They want to "be a generational company."

Look, they aren't wrong. The SEO based internet is possibly going to die soon. Discovery on the web has been fairly stagnant for the last 20 years, and AI generated content is about to completely break it.

This isn't a critique on mission, vision and the ambition that they believe inside of The Browser Company. But, regardless of their specific intention, they just made a huge promise to the market. Before I watched this video, I had no expectations that they would build a new computer that would fundamentally change the internet. Now I do.

I hope they do deliver on the promises. I believe that companies don't sell promises. They sell tangible solutions to problems.

TootBoost: As a startup founder..

As a startup founder, there are a ton of variables you can't control. Here's what you can control:

  1. The product category you choose (⚠️ important)
  2. How you differentiate your product competitively
  3. Efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing
  4. Your skills, network, resources, experiences
  5. How you control your company's costs
  6. How you evolve personally

This is a great reminder for anyone building anything, by Justin Jackson. You can't control the world, but you can control how you live in it.

Justin Jackson (@mijustin@mastodon.social)
As a startup founder, there are a ton of variables you can’t control. Here’s what you can control: 1. The product category you choose (⚠️ important) 2. How you differentiate your product competitively 3. Efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing 4. Your skills, network, resources, experiences…

Product strategy is work, not a recipe

I love cooking, but I love eating great food even more.

One of my earliest jobs was as a line-cook. Through it I learned a number of valuable skills to stock away in my tool chest. It was hard & sometimes disfiguring work (I’ve got the permanent scars to prove it). One of the most valuable skills it taught me, is that a recipe is only as good as your willingness to learn and understand every aspect of it. Why the ingredients are necessary & how they taste. How they react to different stages of the process and how they all harmonize together. How a sharp knife influences how you prepare them & can change everything about the flavor, the texture & the end result.

Put another way, recipes won’t help you make great tasting food if you don’t put in the work to understand what makes food great. If you want great tasting food without doing the work, go have an expert make it for you.

The same is true of product strategy. If you Google “product strategy” you will be presented with all sorts of frameworks with slick looking boxes and diagrams. They look enticing, because they suggest a level of simplicity.

The reality is that those frameworks are just the output of the work that needs to be done. There are layers upon layers of investigation, nuance and trial & error. What those frameworks don’t tell you is that if you take one of them, and fill it out like Mad Libs, it’s guaranteed to be a bad product strategy. A framework is only is good as what contributed to those outputs. You have to do the work. Otherwise, you might be better off paying someone else to figure it out for you.

The work involves research & analysis of data from many different inputs. You have to try to best understand all of the factors that lead into the success (and failure) of your product & business.

The work requires forming opinions, and then breaking them. Sometimes you have to start from scratch. Sometimes you go in a totally wild direction you never would have thought of otherwise. It’s not a linear path.

The work involves making hard choices. There are constraints every which way you turn, and you need to make them work for you. Otherwise they will work against you.

The work gives those frameworks purpose. The work gives your strategy purpose. The work will will help you create impactful product strategy.

Just like with cooking, if you want a great product strategy, you need to understand everything about it that contributes to it possibly being great. You have to understand how all of the ingredients of your product play together, how they are influenced & what the possibilities of them are.

In other words, product strategy is all about the work you put in to understand it. Starting there will get you lightyears farther than following a recipe framework ever could