(Note: My first business was @Have Modem, Will Travel, and this week my modem's still on the road. But fear not. I left you something worth reading - I hope. I'll be back next week.)
For many analysts, one of the biggest surprises in the rise of the Web has been its creation of new business models. Auctions, reverse auctions and affiliate marketing have all earned billions of dollars for the companies which pioneered them, not to mention millions for the lawyers fighting futile patent battles around them. (Where does Cluelessness rule? Click here)
So the ongoing struggle to pioneer new business models is well worth looking at. In this week's feature, we're going to look at some of them.
What a lot of these ideas have in common are finding new ways to mediate between parties to a transaction or new ways to integrate separate transactions for the best overall price. These may seem to be separate goals, but if you're a customer they're the same goal. And that's the key Clue I hear over-and-over whenever I talk to people who really understand this field - the customer rules. Enabling the customer's power, "on every level" (as Robert Davis of Lycos might say), is the name of the game. If this is a new age of "Digital Darwinism," then it's the customer who's always at the top of the food chain.
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You can now get your Daily Clue at ClickZ, putting a "clued-in" spin on the day's news. I'm also a semi-regular on TechEdge Radio and I'm continuing monthly columns for NetMarketing, Boardwatch, and Intellectual Capital. I'll also begin work soon with the IC folk on a book project concerning politics and the Internet, which will appear first on the Web. A-Clue.Com is also the Monday e-commerce column of Andover.News. Buy my book now. Subscription instructions are at the bottom of each issue.
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The Industry vs. The People
The Internet enables politics in many different directions.
First, the Internet drew the attention of politicians and policymakers in many countries. Australia seems to have done what the U.S. failed to do, namely ban pornography. Both countries are fighting the question of wine sales, while the U.S. is trying to ban a chief Australian Internet export, gambling. We've already seen several cyber-wars - Iraq vs. the U.S., Serbia vs. Kosovo, India vs. Pakistan, even Indonesia vs. Ireland over East Timor. The Web's global nature allows anyone to use it to leapfrog local laws and norms, so it is natural that policymakers would (even with the approval of their people) attempt to prevent the future from crashing in on them.
Second, the Internet's wealth has created new political players, and new political disputes. Look no further than the present argument over AT&T's attempt to have a monopoly on broadband Internet access using its cable. Opponents and proponents of AT&T have both solicited public support, and organized to put political pressure on policymakers. Seeing the small sums political dominance requires (a $36 million down payment for the Presidency?) it's no surprise that the industry has organized. As with steel and autos, this kind of organization is designed to advance the industry's interests at the expense of the common weal. So what if the scientists the Web was built for may see things differently , and have the evidence at hand . While some of the industry's entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, may be closet Democrats, it should also be no surprise that others like Scott McNealy are quite overt Republicans, who will do everything possible to tilt political balances their way.
But there's another impact of the Internet's rise that has yet to be seen, that many feel may never be seen. The Web can be the ultimate political organizer. Votes, not dollars, move elections, and while dollars can buy ads, they can also be collected in small amounts on the Web . What hasn't evolved yet is the use of the Web to actually drive debate, and provide a real feedback loop. That's a necessity in the next Millenium, and it's the next logical step in the Web's political evolution. I think that may be the best story to watch for the next year.
Clued-in are British start-ups like Freeserve, a free ISP that went public recently (taking a cut of local telephone revenues), and LastMinute.Com , which took the Trip.Com idea of late airfare bargains into new areas. Many people will be surprised to learn you don't need to be in Silicon Valley to become an online success.
Clueless is Audiohighway's claimed patent on all portable digital music players . Overly broad patents are often invalidated, and unless Audiohighway tones down its rhetoric, its "big break" will be another form of suicide.
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