[LINK] paradigm shift
felipe at xs4all.nl
Wed Jan 14 10:41:00 EST 2004
I have this image forming in my mind about a cultural change through
the Internet. Its about a community that becomes increasingly vocal,
creative and constructive. Feel free to share it with others.
I have observed the Internet since 1989 and loved it myself for its
potential. That drove me to start my company in '93. I've been
virtually full-time immersed in the Internet since ~1991. I like it
because of its community and because of the way people self organize to
achieve a common goal. I have participated in many communities and
usually loved it. In many ways it is human evolution into a very
different future world, society and the international community will
change, has changed, because of it. National boundaries start
dissolving, some traditional legislation can no longer be enforced, new
international subcultures form, communication can not be controlled,
the media have a harder time fooling us et cetera. This has already
Spontaneous self organization of people is what created the Internet.
Before it became commercial it drove on academics who donated their
time to participate in programming projects to develop the technology.
The Internet was created by the people, not by a business. The US
government funded the actual hardware network, but the software was
mostly a community effort.
As the Internet is growing it is becoming more obvious what shape these
initiatives are taking. There is a huge Open Source community that
develops software that is free. That is where Linux, Darwin, FreeBSD et
cetera come from. A clone for Microsoft Office was also created in that
community, and a Microsoft emulator for Linux has been in development
since 1993. The best anti-spam software also comes from it, the world
wide web too, email too et cetera
Now these little communities move into other areas. I am very impressed
by the Wikipedia project at www.wikipedia.org This is an online
encyclopedia by the people for the people. It is completely free and
operates on a shoestring.
People are opening their wireless connection for the community. With
long range wireless like 802.16 people will start community networks,
bypassing commercial companies. It will be like HAM Radio for the
Who knows what happens next. In this world when there is a group of
people that want something, there is a common goal, and they are
online, then it simply happens. Geographical location is not that
important anymore. The way we experience the world is undergoing
tremendous changes and this causes friction. Governments have already
had their anxiety and tried to do something about it by setting up
censorship, surveillance and anti-spam legislation. The censorship laws
had no effect at all, the Internet routes around it.
Not all fish know how to swim in this pond, it causes a culture clash
for many people and companies.
Microsoft is wetting their pants because of their angst of the Open
Source community. Free software is quickly catching up with the
sophistication of Microsoft. Office has already been replicated. A good
writer friend of mine in .nl always used Microsoft and has switched to
Linux successfully. She is not a geek expert hacker chic.
The reason Microsoft is scared is not just because the competing
products are catching up fast, it is also because Microsoft is
increasingly under attack from hackers and virus writers. This has been
going on for years, but now we're at a point that viruses come in by
Email every day. Security has never been Microsoft's forte.
In the old days when I was a hacker the main problem was that suppliers
would ship their unix mainframes with insecure settings. As a
consequence it would be trivial to gain access and get superuser
privileges. Most unix platforms that are shipped these days are
watertight. Microsoft has a long road to go to match that kind of
security, and many monsters lurk on that road to try and derail
Microsoft has a classic problem. Many companies and managers become
very defensive when there is a threat. They fight tooth and nail to
defeat the threat. This becomes a problem when the threat is the
community at large. It is the same mistake Scientology made and is
continuing to make. The Music industry is in this space too. So is SCO.
Business-models will need to change in order to survive. Embracing the
community is survival, coercion, legal battles against many
individuals, aggression and incompetence are certain death.
Microsoft has always dealt with threats successfully. Most competitors
have been wiped out. But can they win the sympathy of the community ?
Can they transform themselves into a pink, warm and cuddly company ?
Will they cooperate with the community to make a better product ? What
other companies are adapting poorly ?
Examples of companies that are doing this well are IBM, Apple, Cisco,
most Linux companies, Adobe. You can usually see by finding out if the
company provides an open online forum where products and problems can
be publicly discussed. For some reason many people and companies have a
natural tendency to not accept these kinds of feedback systems because
they easily feel threatened, they do not want their customers to
organize themselves. But it makes economic sense to listen to customers
and give them what they need, instead of being scared of the customer.
These are dilemmas many companies face. The world has changed much, is
always changing. Old habits die hard. In some cases the old habit will
kill the culprit. Darwinian evolution kicks in and takes out the
elements that do not work. Some companies will die or become obsolete,
others will mushroom. The trick will be identifying them. Which
companies will understand that it is better to ride the wave than to
swim against the stream ?
Don't invest in Encyclopedia companies :-)
More information about the Link