Where did the second parties go?


We were chatting at lunch the other day about 3rd parties building solutions on the audio engine.

One of the people in my group asked “Why do we call them 3rd parties?”

 

It’s one of those “things that make you go hmm”.

There’s general consensus in the business world that the people/companies who build a platform are first party developers (it doesn’t matter if the platform is Windows, Photoshop, or Quake III).

There’s also general consensus that the people who build solutions ON those platforms (so applications on Windows, Photoshop Plugins on Photoshop, <pick your favorite game> on the Quake III engine) are called 3rd party developers.

So we’ve covered 1st and 3rd party developers, what about the 2nd party developers?

Wikipedia’s definition for 3rd party developers is consistent with mine, but they describe 2nd party developers as developers operating under contract to 1st party developers -but they also say it’s not a part of standard business practices.

 

So my question is: “Whatever happened to the second party developers?  Where did they go?”

Bonus question: From Microsoft’s perspective, Adobe is a 3rd party developer, even though they build a platform.  If I’m a developer working on a Photoshop plugin, am I 4th party developer from the eyes of Microsoft?

Comments (35)

  1. Doug says:

    It probably relates to legalese.

    A producer (1st party) supplies a product to a customer (2nd party) using components from another supplier (3rd party).

  2. Dave says:

    I think it’s just the same logic as first-, second-, and third- person, with the idea that Microsoft is the speaker. Microsoft is the first party, the customer is the second party, and other vendors are the third party.

    Google found this, which says that Apple agrees:

    http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=300662

  3. Derek says:

    There are no second party developers, because the second party is the customer.

    First party – Me, Microsoft

    Second party – You, the customer

    Third party – They, other developers

  4. Mike G. says:

    My guess would be that you are the first party, your customer is the 2nd party, and the other guy is the 3rd party.

    No?

  5. Nigel says:

    I’d always assumed that the second party developers were the end-users.

    So when I buy Windows, and write apps/scripts for it, I’m a 2nd party developer, when I buy Acrobat I’m buying 3rd party software.

  6. jon says:

    I’ve always assumed the 2nd party in that situation was the user. The 1st party is always YOU, irrespective of your actual position in the pecking order.

    It’s like 3rd party insurance insurance – the 1st party is YOU, the 2nd party is the insurance company and the 3rd party is everyone else.

  7. JacobM says:

    I think of the party stuff as being from the point of view of the person or company buying the application.  So if my department needs a Windows app, the second party is me — the option of building in-house.  Certainly that’s how it’s used in speech — gee, looks like Microsoft doesn’t have a solution for this, so should we build in-house or go third-party?  Put another way, the second party is the user community.

  8. Joe Beda says:

    I always thought that (for this example, at least) Microsoft is the 1st party, the *user* is the second party and ISVs are 3rd parties.

    Joe

  9. Clinton Pierce says:

    I’ve always considered the "second party" to be the consumer.

    The "first party" is the supplier of the primary tools used by the customer:  Operating Systems.

    The "second party" being the consumer who’s written new tools or modified those tools to suit their needs.  This would be the Applications to run on those Operating Systems.

    The "third party" supplying code that’s neither the primary vendor’s responsibility, nor capable of being written in house.

    Most software these days doesn’t have an active "second party" at all.  But back in the day, when you bought your Big Iron, your computer came with a program loader and batch language cleverly marketed as an Operating System.  You then had to write your own applications to run on it.  

    If you wanted to skip that step and buy software to run on your system, you talked to a third party supplier.

  10. szurgot says:

    Silly idea, this:

    First party software is written by a company for their own use. (This can be extended to platform once you look at "Third Party")

    Second party is when a business (first party) contract to someone (a second party) to create software for their own use.

    Third party is when a developer (first party) creates software for use on a platform created by another developer (the second party) to be sold to an end user (the third party)

    Technically, since Windows is written to run on top of a hardware platform wouldn’t that make MS a third party vendor to Intel and AMD. <grin>

  11. RyanBemrose says:

    An off-the-cuff analysis inspired by my English Lit classes follows…

    I am the first person.  You are the second person.  Everyone else is the third person.

    Now, in terms of selling a platform to a consumer, the platform writer is the first person.  The consumer is the second person, and everyone else is the third person.

    When the platform writer makes software, it’s first party software.  When "anyone else" makes software, it’s third party.  What’s second party?  When the consumer makes their own software.  Second party software is open source!

    Sure, it’s probably not historical or accurate, but still interesting, no?

  12. Rob Kennedy says:

    When I’m writing software in-house, I’m the second party. The OS and developer-tools vendor are the first parties, the ones who provided the base software for whatever I’m doing. Third parties are the other guys, the ones who provide components and controls that I use in the programs I write.

  13. JST says:

    RyanBemrose:  You got it exactly right (and said it well) before I even had a chance to try.  You&me are 1st&2nd, everybody else is 3rd.

  14. Dan Glick says:

    Actually, Ryan, that’s what I always thought it meant.

  15. greenlight says:

    I always thought the second-party was the customer. First party – manufacturer, second party – customer, third party, someone unrelated.

  16. Jeff LaFlamme says:

    <i>Bonus question: From Microsoft’s perspective, Adobe is a 3rd party developer, even though they build a platform.  If I’m a developer working on a Photoshop plugin, am I 4th party developer from the eyes of Microsoft?</i>

    If you write about it, are you part of the fifth estate?  ;-)

  17. Aaron Harnly says:

    @RyanBemros,

    I agree that the "second person" is the end user.

    Of course, end-user software may not be open source, or even distributed.

    I think enabling second-person development is important — for example, those little customizable toolbar buttons linked to macros in MS Word was pretty much my introduction to programming. You get some little itch, the platform offers an easy way to scratch it, and everybody’s happy.

  18. Scott says:

    Yeah, I think the owner of the computer is the second party. Holdover from when you had to input all of your own programs each time you ran. :)

  19. Peter says:

    Yep, it’s interesting to think about it. I often wonder, if there are "Third World Countries", which countries belong to the First and Second World Country groups? Didn’t check it on Wiki though. :)

  20. Joel Spolsky says:

    Ryan’s right. The customer is the second party.

  21. GregM says:

    I always thought of it as the customer and the main application producer being involved in a two-party transaction, and anyone else writing add-ons for that main application is a third-party to that transaction.  I’ve never used nor seen the term "first party developer" before.

  22. Coleman says:

    @Ryan,

    I followed you right up until the "open source" statement.  Writing software for myself doesn’t make it open source.  Making my own software doesn’t automatically indicate I’m ready to share it with anyone, much less provide the source code.

    And, your interpretation gets even more confusing, because, if I write software and sell it, then I’m a 3rd party to Microsoft and their customers.  But, since I use Windows and can make software strictly for my own use, I’m a second party.  Truly, I have a dizzying intellect!  Just wait until I get started!  Where was I?

    Oh yeah…

    I like Larry’s interpretation as it applies to the technical world.  But, I can honestly say I’ve never used the phrase "2nd party" to refer to a contractor.  

    How about this: The first party the creator of a widget and the 2nd party is the consumer of that widget.  Someone who enters into the party with another role is the 3rd party, but only if they also another widget based on the original widget.  :-)

  23. Mark W says:

    The definition from wiki makes some sense if you consider the legal definition as the origin of the usage.  The first two parties are in a business relationship/agreement and third parties do not have that relationship intact.  So Microsoft could have been the 2nd party to IBM when they were developing OS2 v3?

  24. Marcel says:

    My understanding was always the same as Ryan’s. The second party is simply the customer of the 1st party, who may help himself to some 3rd party software if the 1st party has partied too much instead of developing the code the 2nd party wants. Or something like that…

  25. Daniel Garlans says:

    Perhaps it’s like the First-world and Third-world system; Second-world referred to the communists, but they’re not really around anymore, so there really isn’t a "Second-world" anymore.

    I wonder how many other situations there are where there were three main categories, but the second one has since disappeared?

    Sounds a bit like a job for the folks over at the Language Log!

  26. LonLon says:

    I always thought "developer" was an "adjective" to 1st/3rd party, not the opposite.

    That is :

     1st party : The seller of the main component

     2nd party : The buyer of the main component (the user)

     3rd party : The seller of the addon

    In DELL  language, for example, nVidia/ATI graphic cards installed after the product was delivered, are "3rd party hardware".

  27. Igor says:

    And while Larry is fascinated with terminology, I wonder how many people will post exactly the same thing without even reading previous comments? That surely says much about their self-esteem.

  28. Jonathan says:

    Daniel Garlans:

    First-world: Europe

    Second-world: America

    Third-world: All the rest

    That’s how I remember it.

  29. Leo Davidson says:

    "And while Larry is fascinated with terminology, I wonder how many people will post exactly the same thing without even reading previous comments? That surely says much about their self-esteem."

    Igor, it’s because the comments to this blog are moderated and sometimes appear several hours after they are originally written.

    Most or all of those people didn’t see the previous posts because they weren’t published yet.

  30. Tim Lesher says:

    @Aaron:

    "those little customizable toolbar buttons linked to macros in MS Word was pretty much my introduction to programming. "

    Wow. Now I really feel old.  My introduction to programming involved Microsoft BASIC on a computer with about as much memory as is consumed by the bitmaps on the MS Word toolbar buttons.  

  31. Norman Diamond says:

    Your brother used to live in Japan, right?  He should have been able to answer that question.

    The first party involves eating and drinking, and usually ends around 10 p.m.  The second party involves drinking only.  After that, non-geeks surely have a third party of the type that geeks can only dream about.  However, what can we geeks go after the second party other than go write third party code?

  32. Maurits says:

    > Where did the second parties go?

    There are no second parties.  In a two-person conversation, both people consider themselves first parties.  It’s the /other/ person that’s the second party.

    Of course, both of us agree that the guy over there is third party.

    It’s jam every other day: today isn’t any other day, you know.

    – The White Queen, /Through the Looking Glass/

  33. Norman Diamond says:

    Monday, April 02, 2007 1:02 PM by Tim Lesher

    @Aaron:

    >> "those little customizable toolbar buttons linked to macros in

    >> MS Word was pretty much my introduction to programming. "

    >

    > Wow. Now I really feel old.  My introduction to programming

    > involved Microsoft BASIC on a computer with about as much

    > memory as is consumed by the bitmaps on the MS Word

    > toolbar buttons.

    OK.  My introduction to programming was in Fortran.  Later I wrote part of a Basic interpreter, but not a complete one, because I stayed in college.  At the time, no one guessed it would become more useful than a toy.  Then someone else dropped out of college and wrote a complete Basic interpreter with two other programmers.

  34. Norman Diamond says:

    In some countries, the second party goes to jail.  In other countries, the second party sits on the opposite side of the house (unless they form a coalition with the first party).

  35. ken says:

    By the same logic what are "second world countries"? Everyone talks about "first world countries" and "third world countries" but where are the second world countries?

    I have to agree 1st-party is the vendor, 2nd-party is the customer and third-party is anyone else.  (I guess if a third party subs out to some other company they would be fourth party…)