In the connected world of today companies compete not just on products, but on integrated ecosystems of cooperating products and services. Business today is a war between networks... reach, inclusion, attention, power, control, influence... all those network dynamics are in play.
Great article from Gizmodo about the war between the ecosystems of Apple, Google and Microsoft for internet supremacy: The Dogs of War: Apple vs. Google vs. Microsoft
Gizmodo provides the network diagram below to illustrate the intertwined battle amongst the three titans of the consumer internet. This is what social network analysts call a two-mode network: connections between companies and markets.
I am a big fan of network visualization, but a spaghetti diagram is not always a good solution. Yet, early in my network analysis career, I also produced spaghetti diagrams of the internet industry!
Visualization should help us quickly see the pattern(s) in a complex dynamic. Is there another way to display the data so that it is easily understandable by a business reader?
I took the data from the Gizmodo diagram, added this week's acquisition of Skype by Microsoft, and a few other missing items, and came up with this alternate view of the internet ecosystem wars below.
Displaying network links as intersections on a Venn diagram clears up the picture quite a bit -- quickly showing where the three big players do, and do not, overlap. In terms of social network analysis, it is easier to see the structural equivalence of the network players with the Venn diagram. Sociologists believe that in networks, the more structurally equivalent two nodes are, the more they will be in fierce competition, and will continue to mimic each other's moves.
Update: Here is another dreadful network visualization from the New York Times. It could also use the Venn treatment, eh?