The Framework as Franchise

My PHP Advent article is up; therein I try to describe the parallels between public frameworks and business franchises. However, the PHP Advent site doesn’t support comments; if you would like to comment, please do so on this blog post instead. Thanks!

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10 thoughts on “The Framework as Franchise

  1. Good article, kudos! I like the analogy, but here are some thoughts:

    Business franchises also give you some marketing value. One reason a business owner buys a McDonald’s franchise is that the McDonald’s name gives them brand recognition, immediately establishes a certain market credibility, the franchisee can rely on corporate assistance for advertising, etc.

    However, a coding framework rarely gives any of that marketing-oriented value. The little “powered by” slug icons may be interesting to software developers who may want to make a website with similar functionality but different branding, but not to other typical users. This is the inverse of the brand value of a franchise like McDonald’s, where the “end users” take more interest in the brand than other restaurateurs do.

    And the closest thing to marketing assistance from a framework vendor is the “success stories” page on the vendor’s website, which isn’t an effective channel for the business that’s using the framework to reach its customers.

    Also, a franchise provides a lot of best practices for running a business that is exactly like every other franchise from that corporation. So a software framework is naturally great for implementing software exactly like the software for which the framework was developed.

    You also mention Rasmus’ famous non-framework framework (which actually reminds me of PageKit for Perl). Has anyone done an actual reference implementation of the NFF?

  2. Bill: those are all valid points. The best I can say is that “All models are wrong, but some are useful” — the analogy only goes so far. 🙂

  3. I’m not sure if OpenID really qualifies as the type of framework referred to in Jones’s article.

    Good article, though. I started using frameworks as a consultant since I usually jump-start projects that are eventually taken over by other developers. It creates a lot less headaches for me if the documentation is all managed elsewhere and they’re not dependent on me for figuring out how things work.

  4. Bill Karwin: “However, a coding framework rarely gives any of that marketing-oriented value. ”

    A web framework may not bring any value to the website from the web-browsing audience, but it certainly does add value to the developer looking to be hired. I run the job board for the DallasPHP and about a third of the ads we publish are specifically asking for framework experience, particularly Zend Framework, Code Ignitor or Symfony. Frameworks DO add market value, but its in the job market, not the consumer market.

    Can a company gain credibility by choosing a framework? Maybe, maybe not. But a Developer can definitely gain credibility by knowing one (or more).

  5. One more sentence to add to my previous response:

    A Company can considerably strengthen its hand by promoting and strengthening the brand identity of the framework they use: By attaching themselves to the brand, they are more likely to be approached by potential employees who are familiar with the framework, and who are, therefore, more rapidly capable of being brought into the company’s existing development team. It may not translate directly into retail growth, but it definitely cuts costs.

  6. Frameworks don’t just tell people how to do stuff, they also provide tools that do stuff themselves, which is less like a franchise and more like industrial equipment factory. Using outdated equipment and not doing any development, because “it’s all subjective”, is a sure way to technology stagnation.

    Also, since when do we want to have less franchises?

    The problem is not that there are a lot of frameworks, but that they are very similar to one another (Java-style coding, Rails-style organization…), highly complex and not modular enough to use whatever good components they have separately.

  7. Very good illustration of why frameworks work!

    Re. marketing value, think of all the hype surrounding Rails. Not going to happen everytime, but recognition in whatever form is a plus.

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