What Would Google Do

Facebook Home: Revisiting Jeff Jarvis And The Church as Platform

Yorocko.com started in 2010 with a series of posts on Jeff Jarvis’ book¬†What Would Google Do?¬†Jarvis’s central assertion was that Google’s success derives from its decision to function as a platform rather than a portal, allowing developers to do their mapping and book publishing work on top of Google’s own infrastructure rather than creating its own mapping and book publishing software. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how this approach might be applied to the church.

Just this week I had a conversation with a nonprofit executive who’s interested in partnering with churches to start community farms. Churches would offer up their property as a literal platform on which a local organization can do good work. A good thing–even a gospel thing–gets going at the church, yet the church doesn’t develop and run it; it merely functions as a platform for others to do it. It’s pretty exciting.

It gets tricky, though. Ownership becomes a critical question, and fast. Consider the announcement yesterday that Facebook is developing an app to run on Google’s Android mobile operating system, an app that will completely take over the device, transforming it, effectively, into a Facebook device. It’s a blatant exploitation of an open platform.

If a church wants to function as a platform and invite committed communities to do their good work on top of the church’s own infrastructure (both physical and relational), this ownership question is going to surface. How do churches maintain ownership of the platform? Should they?