Kellogg Directory Search Plugin

For those of us at Kellogg, we search for people in our online photo directory a LOT. So, I’ve found a way to create a search plugin for those of us using Firefox 2+. Here’s how to do it:

  • Click this link
  • This will generate a plugin on the searchplugins.net site.
  • In the middle of that site, you will see “Kellogg Last Name: Install”. Click on “Install”.
  • Robert is your father’s brother.

This raises an interesting few notes on coopetition. Coopetition is the idea that competing firms may wish to collaborate in some way to create an environment they can both benefit from. The obvious example is industry standard – for example, many competing companies came together to create the DVD format, even though they were in direct competition.

How is this relevant, exactly?

I’ll tell you. Both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox use OpenSearch for their search plugins. Each plugin is just a little XML file that contains the details of how to kick off that search. OpenSearch is a file format standard for that little XML file. Oddly, it was actually created by Amazon.

So now we have three companies that compete in search (Amazon A9, Google and Microsoft) using a common file format.

Isn’t that nice?

Yes it is – it’s entirely beneficial for the writers of those XML files, and the end users.

So what do the companies get out of it?

It makes it more likely that the format will become widespread.

So why can’t I use the plugin above with IE7?

Well, that illustrates one of the wonderful things about negotiating a common standard across companies. Some of them want to do more than the standard allows, and hence will extend the standard without negotiating the extension.

Doesn’t that defeat the point of a standard?

Yes, it does. There are two possibilities that can follow:

  • The extensions are taken into the body of the standard, and all companies involved use this new, revised standard
  • Everybody uses the new extension and ignores the standard, perhaps because the naughty company involved is the market leader. The extended standard is now proprietary, creating value for the leader through switching costs.

Does that second option really happen?

Well, you can see it above with Mozilla, though I would hope the extension will be rolled into the next version of OpenSearch.

Another good example is Microsoft, with their latest revisions to the Office file format, and the ensuing spat. (The situation isn’t that simple here, but it’s a really interesting example.) Here’s the Rolo Tomasi – as a market leader in many of their markets, they have some strong incentives to follow this second path.

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