The balance we need to move the web forward

This is a great post by Anil Dash. There’s so much to learn from the Foursquare story, but my favorite part is the last paragraph. In Foursquare: Today’s best-executing startup he writes:

But perhaps most importantly, I think we need more stories that celebrate the success of what seem like small, iterative product launches, but actually reflect triumphs in unsung disciplines such as systems operations, design process, business development and product management. There are lots of loud, pointless headlines about companies getting money from venture capitalists or angel investors. What I’d love to see more of in 2012 (and beyond!) is headlines about how a few small successes with users are a demonstration of a small company outperforming and out-innovating the biggest companies in the tech industry by being focused and disciplined in their execution.

This is why I hope all the cynics are wrong when they publicly wonder when Facebook will buy Path’s design team. I’m done with Path because I couldn’t find a use for it, but some people have found a place for it. I’d much rather see Path succeed as a small, niche social network that continues to push the design envelope, than have them be gobbled up as a “talent acquisition” move.

When we design for the web we often find ourselves balancing the use of established UI patterns with trying out new ways to solve existing problems. Facebook Timeline is tilted towards the former, while Path bet heavily on the latter. Yet both approaches are important. If we’re going to move the web forward we can’t get stuck in the existing ways of doing things without also experimenting with possible better ways. If we shine a bigger spotlight on those small companies that “outperform and out-innovate the biggest companies”, then maybe we can maintain this necessary balance between design status quo and new ideas indefinitely.