Thinking About Software and Lock-in

I was just thinking about my recent switch from Bloglines to Google Reader. It was easy – really easy. Export an OPML file of my RSS feeds from one, import it into the other. I made the transition in less than a minute.

So, what does this mean for Bloglines? Should Ask make it painful to leave their service so that I’d have to think twice before going?

My answer is the one I’m sure Bloglines would give you: Heck No. Why? Because lock-in is the new lock-out. My freedom to leave Bloglines at anytime was a key reason in why I joined in the first place. Knowing that I could walk away without trouble made me comfortable and gave me warm fuzzies. If I had faced the possibility of lock-in, I just would have moved on to one of the many other options that do give me freedom.

The nice thing for Bloglines is that while I’ve moved over to Google Reader for now, the same openness that let me leave can let me come back in the future just as easily. Zero barriers to entry and exit mean that companies need to rely on innovation for success instead of just locking customers in and throwing the key away.

While that makes doing business a little harder, the customer wins, hands down.