Thursday, May 03, 2007

Information Economies vs Web 2.0

Bah, I hate that 2.0 moniker, but it turns out there are some important trends going on, and having a name to captcha them just makes writing easier. Maybe you could change that title to "Information Economies vs User-centric Services".. but then you'd still have the equally appalling first 2 words. Anyway.

The Browser have a short interview with Jay Adelson, the CEO of Digg, following the media-grabbing furore yesterday. Why am I linking to that? I dunno, it's not relevant. Here's a random thought.

We keep hearing that we need to make a shift to knowledge economies/information economies if we're to survive - at least in the UK. Production is no longer a feasible option because, well, we suck at it. Innovation and creativity are the new ever-faster buzzwords - sell the ideas, not the things. Because when you have a network, virtual things are easier to sell than tangible things.

But the ruckus over the AACS key shows how flakey this relationship between economy and network is, and how much flakier it's got with a move towards more community involvement. An economy built on digital networks is an economy built on numbers, and as we've seen (multiple times - recall the exact same fuss over DeCSS), numbers out of context are, well, just numbers. The speed and manner at which both the AACS key and the DeCSS code spread reveal the philosphical flimsiness that we hope to build a brave, new world on.

This is why anyone that's smart will be investing in DRM and Crypto, at least for the short-to-medium term. Despite moves towards less DRM, keeping these numbers a secret is what it's all about, and what it'll increasingly be about.

The kicker is that, by fostering a greater sense of community, we now have a correspondingly increased sense of community ownership of information, even when that information might be designated as "illegal" (if, say, acquired through illegal means). Decryption keys are there to stop consumers doing what they want with content. Communities of consumers are inherently against that kind of control.

In a way, this is nothing new. The difference now, I think, is that both sides are gearing up to become larger forces. Crypto has enjoyed relatively limited success, boosted mainly by the need for secure shopping communication. Communities have been around forever on the net, but only now are being more fully, more richly "exploited" - i.e. for commercial means. In a sense, there are 2 economics camps - one (the "information economy", perhaps) that thrives on privacy and isolation. The other ("community economy", maybe?) that gets off on freedom of information and lubricated lines of communication.

It'll be fun to see how the two get on with each other as the pressure builds to virtualise even more stuff.

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