It’s disruptive now as ever.
New York Times has two great stories on this disruptive quality: One, “Death by Smiley Face: When Rivals Disdain Profit“, about companies giving away stuff and hurting established profit mongers; the other, “Internet Injects Sweeping Change Into U.S. Politics“, about how the Web will change the 2006 and 2008 elections, mostly from how politicians adjust their politicking. While both stories are good reading, I will only blather about the first one.
The infant Internet wasn’t about profit, and at its core the network may never be about money. Early days Internet served government and education and fostered the sharing of information. Then the Internet went public but really nowhere until the creation of the World Wide Web. In his brilliance of creating the first Web browser and server, Tim Berners-Lee chose open rather than proprietary standards. And money doesn’t seem to have been his motivation, either. Same can be said for many early Websites, which were informational.
Sure, lots of people have made money (and lost it thanks to greed during the 1990’s dot-com boom) on the Web. But lots more just give away stuff for free, without looking to make any money at all. This Weblog and the hundreds thousands of others are good example. If anything, the Web’s legacy is about doing away with profiteers, in part because of the network’s equalization effect. The original Napster is good example. MP3 trading undermined longstanding economic and philosophical principles of ownership.