There are two words that strike fear into the heart of most* early adopters around the world: ‘US only.’
Yes, there’s nothing we hate more than to read about a cool new app or gadget only to discover that it’s only available in the USA. Seriously, it’s infuriating. *Since most people in the world aren’t in the US, it’s fair to assume that most early adopters are outside the US too.
Take today’s launch of Slingshot, Facebook’s new app. Roberto from our team covered the launch from the US and I (sitting at home in the UK) decided to download it and give it a try. Oh, I quickly discovered, it’s only available in the USA – just like Paper, Facebook’s other experimental app released earlier this year.
Now, my head knows that Slingshot and Paper are examples of Facebook trying out ideas in its home market without the pressure of having to consider international tastes, and they’ll be released in other markets if the company feels such a launch would fit its wider strategic goals – but my heart isn’t so easy to satisfy.
In my heart I’m positively seething that Facebook is happy to promote these apps on its internationally available website, talk to internationally accessible media outlets about them and then not follow through and check a few boxes in its account settings on Apple’s App Store and Google Play so that the rest of the world can have a try. That’s all that is stopping those apps being available here – a few options in an interface.
If I got my hands on it, maybe I’d love Paper and tell all my UK friends about it and they’d love it too. Maybe Slingshot isn’t quite perfect for the US market, but people in a country like Indonesia or the Philippines might adore it?
And yet we all just get told ‘US only.’
To be fair, sometimes there’s more than just a company’s strategy at play when it comes to geoblocking apps and services.
Streaming music services are a perfect example – companies like Spotify or Rdio need to sign licenses with every single rightsholder for every country in which they launch. It’s understandable that international rollouts may take a while in these cases, but that didn’t stop me quietly fuming at last week’s launch of Amazon Prime Music in the US.
I’m a Prime subscriber and Amazon is a behemoth of online retail and as much as my head understands the business, my heart feels smote by Amazon. It was happy to announce international price increases for Prime customers around the world earlier this year but there’s certainly not feature parity across the board when it comes to what we get for our money.
Don’t get me wrong, I probably wouldn’t even use Prime Music if it was available to me. I might well try Facebook’s Slingshot for five minutes and never touch it again, but it’s the sense of being a second-class citizen that is the hard thing to overcome.
The American approach is often that there’s the USA – a big market with lots of initial opportunity – and then there’s ‘The Rest Of The World’ – a place you go to when you need to grow.
We get it – you’re an American company and you’re putting your home market first. That makes business sense, but forgive we early adopters if our hearts aren’t quite as forgiving as our heads. First world problems, eh?
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