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The orphanage is safe, they said

Thursday, 5 July, 2012

New York University professor, author and thinker Clay Shirky talks with Wired Business about where the web has been and where it might be going. Snippet:

Wired: You closely observed the first tech boom and educated some of the people driving the current one. What is different this time around?

Shirky: “What is happening this time is different in a couple of ways. One, the basic question, ‘the internet, fad or big change?’ has been answered. At the end of the first boom, a bunch of media companies said, ‘phew, we thought that internet thing was going to be a big deal, but now we see that it was just a tulip bubble, everybody back as you were.’ And there was a moment there where the music industry, the newspaper industry, the movie industry, television, whatever could have said, ‘you know what, we are going to take the fact that our competitors have been financially weakened for a moment and we are going to build what they were going to build. We’re going to build the jukebox in the sky, we are going to build the news websites they were building and so forth.’ But they largely didn’t. They largely said, ‘Oh thank god, the orphanage is safe, the 20th century business model will continue unmolested.’ And both Google AdWords and Napster happened during the recession.

The other thing is that there is now a sense of sectors. It’s hard to remember now, but back in 1999 a company could get a bump in its stock price just by announcing that they were going to launch A WEBSITE. And later, that that website would have E-COMMERCE, and seriously, you could make the stock go NUTS. So, I’m sure that there are things that are overvalued; people will get all excited about mobile, and then parts of it will turn out to work and parts not; people plainly got excited about the iPad even as parts worked and parts didn’t. But I don’t think that there’s going to be any internally synchronizing effects.”

Shirky believes that what we have this time around might be more foam than bubble.


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