The rationale for unbundling has emerged from the way we access mobile applications on our phones today. Unbundling essentially means extracting features within an existing larger application that users are already interacting with and creating a fresh experience based on this feature by expanding its capabilities outside of the constraints which exist in the current usage.
Why exactly is a decision of unbundling made? The reason for unbundling could swing between the fact that a particular feature has a heavy usage within an existing platform or due to the overabundance of other functions not allowing exploitation of the feature. The emergence of the new applications is based on the fact that it simplifies the current complexity and creates a new platform for the concept to expand further.
A simple scientific explanation of energy transformation might help exemplify this concept further :
Energy changes from one form to another by interacting with objects in its environment that resist the influence of that energy. Like electricity traveling through a superconductor, not all interactions actually result in an energy transformation. Only those interactions in which the objects resist the energy in some way result in energy transformations, and that resistance is literally the transformation of that energy.
This is exactly how unbundling emerges from apps transforming the ‘energy’ / feature by interacting with users who either absorb or resist that content in the current format.
To put things into perspective there is no better example of how the app, Vine, was possibly inspired by, and unbundled from, Facebook’s video sharing ability. Vine is ( or rather, was ) a short-form video hosting service which emerged as an extraction of Facebook’s feature to share videos on a social media platform. The concept however flourished on a constraint of using six-second long looping videos.
Vine captured public attention and became a premiere tool for making short-form videos completely by accident. The thought behind creation of Vine was in fact a business pitch originally made to Twitter, seeing it as a near-perfect video analog to the apps character constraints on posts. However, even before the app launched, it took to fame amongst people as a creative challenge. Something about the loop and the six second constraint motivated everyone to put it to unusual uses. Within weeks it achieved a massive number of followers and it became wilder and much more culturally interesting.
“It became pretty clear as soon after we launched,” Hofmann said. “Watching the community and the tool push on each other was exciting and unreal, and almost immediately it became clear that Vine’s culture was going to shift towards creativity and experimentation.”
What is worth noting here is that while Facebook had the large user base and photo and video sharing capabilities along with tons of other features, Vine could emerge solely on the concept of a six-second video sharing platform and grab people’s interest within no time. Vine was eventually acquired by Twitter since it was unable to generate revenue. While Vine generated money for the users and became an advertising platform for them, it could not convert this fame into considerable amount of earnings to thrive for itself. It even failed to keep pace as competitors added features, by not moving fast enough to differentiate and thus other platforms surged ahead. After Twitter absorbed this feature into their model, it attained a fresh appeal. This gravitates us towards the idea of ‘rebundling’, wherein merger of an unbundled idea within a bigger one, helps it regain its value.
After twitter acquired Vine, another unbundling took place internally and the Vine camera app was launched. They announced on their Medium channel :
Here’s what’s coming: in January, we’re transitioning the Vine app to a pared-down Vine Camera. With this camera app you’ll still be able to make six-second looping videos, and either post them directly to Twitter or save them to your phone.
The beauty of bundling or unbundling is that you can extract a feature from a larger domain, expand its capacity, define its identity, and assign newer features. You create a potential for further breakdown or unbundling to create another concept, which could be rebundled again.
This could again be aligned with how we understand the configuration of an element :
An element is a substance completely made up of one atom. However, the atom itself is not the smallest known particle, but instead each atom is made up of three individual parts: electrons, protons and neutrons. Furthermore, protons and neutrons themselves are made up of even smaller parts called quarks, leptons and bosons.
There is always a prospective breakdown or probable integration of any feature or app as it receives a response in the form of an acceptance or rejection from the users. Revenue generation would be the primary reasons for an application to thrive within the current scenario and other being constant development to stay with the trends. That being said, it also needs a prospering audience and a workforce to improve and maintain its standing. If something’s not adding up, that opens a room for change.
Jim Barksdale says there are “Only two ways to make money in business: one is to bundle; the other is unbundle”
Bundling and unbundling is an intrinsic cycle. Possibly, Twitter one day could be acquired by Facebook. Facebook, while being an unbundler itself, it has also been a bundler, by buying Instagram and Whatsapp. Facebook could possibly become the one social layer by bundling up all apps, still retaining their identity, but placing them underneath Facebook’s philosophy. This may seem the end, but it will only open other possibilities. ‘We think of unbundling as the end-state, but instead, it’s a process that leads to its reversal. Unbundling creates the incentives for rebundling.’
The constant, as usual, is change.