At the 2012 SXSW conference, American science fiction author Bruce Sterling talked about five companies he calls The Stacks:
Stacks. In 2012 it made less and less sense to talk about "the Internet," "the PC business," "telephones," "Silicon Valley," or "the media," and much more sense to just study Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. These big five American vertically organized silos are re-making the world in their image.By doing so, they break the internet:
What will the world that they create look like? Here's what I think: Your technology will work perfectly within the silo and with an individual stacks's (temporary) allies. But it will be perfectly broken at the interfaces between itself and its competitors.I was never really sure about Microsoft in this line-up. And to be honest, lately Yahoo has been behaving like a stack too.
British ad/strategy specialist Neil Perkin picks up where Bruce Sterling left it. He limits the list to four and refers to them as GAFA - short for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. See also Another game of thrones: Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are at each other’s throats in all sorts of ways, published at The Economist a few weeks before Sterling's SXSW (and image source for the top image).
Here's how Perkin sees their vertical stacks:
He then applies the vertical stack idea to brands:
a key challenge is joining stuff up, reapplying value gained through one touchpoint to benefit the experience at other touchpoints, and to make that holistic experience as seamless as possible. APIs (internal as well as external) are key tools in this process, and also in developing marketing and content agility.