Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We share - How money influenced the path of innovation on the Internet - Extra Credit Assignment 1

We share.

Sharing is how the Internet started and no millennial user could imagine it otherwise. We have also come to expect to share it for free. The Internet has challenged our economic model from inception and we have to thank the 1000s of academic inventors who through their collaborative creativity contributed to making this free Internet service available to over 2.2 billion people worldwide in 2011 (Internet World Stats 2011). These scientists and engineers cleverly manipulated getting $15m from the US government to develop the NSFNet in 1986. Ironically while the Internet was funded by the US government, this is one institution that would like, above all, to remove net neutrality (Cleland 2011).

The NSFNet early version of the Internet connected six NSF funded academic supercomputer sites and enabling academics to share documents over a 56kbps dial-up line. Later the TCP/IP layered network model was invented and data was transported between servers in packet filled windows across a network of routers. Again through collaboration the standards adopted by the Internet regulatory body Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) ensure that no single vendor is able to gain advantage by commercialisation of the Internet infrastructure.
Combine this foundation of a free infrastructure with the effect of Moore's Law on the cost of storage and the hardware devices that make the Internet possible and you have a network that runs very cheaply. The resultant dramatic reductions in the costs of distribution and production have had a massive effect on barriers to entry for many business models. As a result of this almost every sector of industry has been challenged by disruptive start-ups offering competitive services and products for free. Content and advertising have become commoditised by free news websites, including user generated content sites and free classified advertising sites. Even high-end software technology has been affected as these services move into the cloud. Books can also be included. The book "Free - The Future of a Radical Price" that discusses this free economy, was available at launch for free as an e-book or can be downloaded from the Internet as a free audiobook (Anderson 2009).

I wonder if those academics realised that the impact of their collaborative invention would ultimately lead to the revolutionary change we have seen the Internet bring about on the world. The collaborative nature of their invention has sparked a culture of collaborative creativity that spans across continents making our world more democratic, productive and creative (Leadbeater 2008). We now live in a world where we have people using the immediacy of social networks to communicate with each other in time of social change or protest. And while the use of social media was used as a rallying tool in the Arab Spring we must also look at the effect this same collaborative connectivity has had on consumerism. If we use the example of Netflix who lost over 800 000 customers and two thirds of its market value when a social media backlash to their price increase resulted in thousands and thousands of blog posts and tweets from customers (Bienhoff 2012). Companies are now required to engage in conversations with their customers and that voice has to be sensitive to their customer's emotion and their influence in the collaborative framework of the modern Internet.

The Internet is free. Free as in beer and free as in freedom. It started that way and so, we hope, it will stay and continue to facilitate our global sharing of freedom and democracy.


Internet World Stats. (2011, December 31). Internet Usage Statistics -The Internet Big Picture - World Internet Users and Population Stats. [Data file] Retrieved from Cleland, S (2011, July 11). The Politics of Regulating the Internet. Forbes. Retrieved from Anderson, C (2009). Free: The Future of a Radical Price. London: Random House Business Books Leadbeater, C (2008). We-Think: Mass innovation, not mass production. London: Profile Books Bienoff, M (2012, May 10). Welcome to the social media revolution. BBC. Retrieved from

No comments:

Post a Comment