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The Internet

All Aboard The Technological Revolution 211

fm6 writes "Our old friends at nytimes.com (click here to tell them how much traffic their silly registration system costs them) have a short but thought-provoking interview with economic historian John Gordon Steele. He compares the economic effect of the Internet to various other technological revolutions, especially the introduction of steam power in the early 19th century."
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All Aboard The Technological Revolution

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  • you come back at the point where you started.
  • Frost.!!
  • http://archive.nytimes.com/2001/08/26/business/26S VAL.html
  • Let's see. Industrial Revolution.
    Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we see a whole bunch of things like steel plants and railroads and fun stuff like that take place and a whole bunch of people got REALLY loaded?
    Now, the net. So far, we just had some people get really loaded from overpriced IPOs.
    I think that more of the businesses had better business plans.
    I agree that the net has had a huge economic impact and that it will continue to do so, but if these net companies don't get some things in order - we'll see.
    Yes - the net changed the way most of us live. Yes, it did make some wealthy people (they weren't as wealthy as some from the industrial revolution though - even Bill pails to some of them)
    my .02
    • If anything, the Industrial revolution made people poorer. A few people got really rich, but the shift to a urban v. Rural lifestyle ruined the lives of generationsof people.

      At least with the Net the wealth that's been distrubuted has been a bit more equitable. Granted, nobody went from living on the street to .com millionaire, but Old Money didn't have much of an advantage.
      • That's what they'd have you believe. But although plenty of people made paper fortunes in dot-com IPOs, the Wall St. firms that underwrote them made crisp, folding millions on every one of them.
      • OK.. I hope last post didn't go through by mistake but we'll see

        The industrial revolution did by NO MEANS make the common man poorer. In fact, the mean streets of Dickensian London were a paradise when compared to the middle ages before the 'evils' of industrialization took hold.

        It's easy to look back after the Industrial Revolution and point out how bad things were in the beginning, but you make the basic logical error of forgetting that the very wealthy life that every average American enjoys today is due PRECISELY to the efforts of the 'evil' businessmen who went out and built the steel plants, and railroads.

        Just go and look at some present day countries that never went through the industrial revolution. Do you really want to live in Chad, or the USA? Yeah, I thought so.
      • the shift to a urban v. Rural lifestyle ruined the lives of generations of people

        Its easy to think that from here, but I believe that's a bit of 'grass is greener' thinking. We've never experienced true rural lifestyles. Especially not pre-industrial rural lifestyles. Life in feudal England was best described as nasty, brutish, and short. The same may reasonably said of 1850s London, but that really cannot be said about the majority of Londoners today, even in the worst neighborhoods.

        It took a while to figure out how to make that work, but in the end I do think it works better. We can toy with going back to the land, and build little communes, and admire the Ahmish and Mennonites in their horse-drawn carriages. But there are trade-offs to living off the land that we should recognize before throwing it all away to go back to the trees.

        And actually, that was the Bay Area. I bet there were some folks that went from living on the street to .com millionare. Weird shit happens out there, and a lot of rich, well-educated Berkeley types spend a couple of years being homeless just for the bohemian lifestyle :-P. And you can do that out there, climate wise; nobody does that in Atlanta or Milwaukee. Still, fewer legitimately impoverished people have gotten cooshy .com jobs than us suburbanite white guys.
      • by Jack William Bell ( 84469 ) on Monday August 27, 2001 @08:03PM (#2223525) Homepage Journal
        You Said:
        >If anything, the Industrial revolution made
        >people poorer. A few people got really rich,
        >but the shift to a urban v. Rural lifestyle
        >ruined the lives of generationsof people.

        Clearly you have had your history fed to you by spoon, or else by a Marxist. In actual fact the shift to the urban lifestyle broke the back of old aristocracy by giving people a freedom of choice they didn't have before. No longer must there choices consist of working a farm owned by a landlord or starve...

        Read some books about the lifestyle of the average person in the middle ages and then compare that to the wage slaves of the Industrial Revoloution. Were they better off? You bet. Were they still exploited, treated like cattle and forced into lives of desperation. Damn right.

        The point is that there was an incremental *increase* in the quality of living for the new urban working class. And the ensuing increase in literacy and the narrowing of class boundaries led to the reforms that truly made the working(man)'s life better and gave hope and upward mobility to (his) children.

        The industrial revoloution was a *good thing* (tm). Don't let anyone tell you different. The fact that it also came with its own set of *bad things* (tm) is just the way things work. The pendulumn swings and over time things balance out.

        Please don't post regurtitated historical pablum in the future. Do some reading and think for yourself!

        Jack
        • >Clearly you have had your history fed to you
          >by spoon, or else by a Marxist.

          Perhaps being a Marxist is a bit like reading history with a spoon, I really don't know, but I have read some books about the lifestyle of people in the medieval and industrial capitalist England, and I got the distinct impression that the industrial revolution actually made a lot of the poorest people even poorer.

          Sure, a century or 2 later things are a bit different, but at the time, thousands of poor peasants were displaced and forced into the cities to work in appalling conditions for virtually nothing. As agricultural workers they were made redundant by new agri-technologies. Many of these early industrial workers (including young children) were worked literally to death in a few years. There was wide-spread starvation. In short, their quality of life (never that high) turned to shit. At least as serfs they were sufficiently valuable to their masters to be kept alive, but as cheap industrial labour to the industrialists they were expendable.

          Maybe the industrial revolution was a "good thing" but that doesn't mean it was all sweetness and light at the time. On the contrary it was accompanied by unprecedented exploitation, widespread civil unrest, and police repression. Don't be surprised when these same things happen today as a result of the "IT revolution". What the poor and working people of the world need is a political revolution so as to turn the new technologies to the benefit of the majority, rather than a few rich Yanks (present company excluded of course ;-)
        • No one (intelligent or sane) ever said the Industrial Revolution is easy. When the Industrial Revolution swept England, there were tens of thousands of little kids working in horribly dangerous conditions. I don't think you'd find many people (outside of England) willing to subscribe to the notion that the English are a downtrodden people. It's a rough transition, but then and now, people living before the transition are demonstrably worse off than those who pass through it.

          As computing and the Internet begins to show it's real effects, doubtless there will be many who lose their jobs (aside from boom/bust effects). Eventually, most of them will get better, less grueling jobs - or do you really wish you were an 18th century weaver?

        • Re:Hmm - comparison (Score:3, Informative)

          by dgroskind ( 198819 )

          Read some books about the lifestyle of the average person in the middle ages and then compare that to the wage slaves of the Industrial Revoloution. Were they better off? You bet.

          Nothing so clearly contradicts your statement than the condition of child labour [brown.edu] in 19th century England, which was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. It was only after the recommendation of a Royal Commission in 1833 that children age 9 to 11 were limited to working a mere 8 hours a day in the textile industry. In mining, where there was no regulation, children began work at five years old and were typically dead by 25.

          The purpose of this example is to show that the improvement in the lives of ordinary people did not come about as a result of the Industrial Revolution, but from legislation and trade unions that mitigated the depredations [m-w.com] of industrialization.

          It is also important to remember that at the same time as the Industrial Revolution another tremendous accumulation of wealth was going on that involved simply conquering weaker countries, dispossesing the natives and keeping their land and resources. A large part of the wealth from the Industrial Revolution didn't come from the factories, it was stolen from abroad with as much brutality as necessary.

          The pendulumn swings and over time things balance out.

          Is this pronouncement your alternative to "regurgitated historical pablum"?

        • Uh, what I forgot to say was that ironically, China is right now experiencing a real economic boom - proving, perhaps, that Asian-style ostrich behavior (market? no, it's a people's direct actino incentive) is superior to a Soviet-style "let's give all the money to the criminals" privitization. But this new wealth is felt primarily in the cities, and is creating a whole new generation of urban affluence.

          So, ironically, even in one of the last Communist holdouts, the real laws of economics hold true; progress may not be easy or clean, but it's better than stagnation.

    • But it costs more to build a steel plant. Better business plan or not, you start off further in hoc.
    • Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we see a whole bunch of things like steel plants and railroads and fun stuff like that take place and a whole bunch of people got REALLY loaded?
      Now, the net. So far, we just had some people get really loaded from overpriced IPOs.

      The analogy to the steel plants and railroads of the industrial revolution are the web servers and fiber optic lines of the internet revolution. I'm sure you could find many more examples if you looked.
  • that inovation is hindered with every patent and progress is measured in green bucks. I want to see real progress! like a bridge across the atlantic or humans in Jupiter's moons, or maybe a search for intelligent life in Washington... And with the DMCA and stuff like that somebody probably is going to patent having ideas ( me, i'm planning on patenting sex! )
    • "Patents will be issued so that inventors have exclusive rights to their inventions for a limited time." -paraphrased
      Yet what do we actually have? A system of tyrany, where the courts bow to the wiliest lawyer as to what is or is not patentable, enforcable, or "right". Someone recently patented the wheel!
      The DMCA makes use of material illegal, not just making a profit off of other peoples work.
      Do Freedom. Use ideas, and give credit where credit is due.
      Bob-
  • I emailed them, and proposed a no-reg-required subdomain, for high traffic websites such as slashdot. I bet they don't even read it, as i bet i wasnt the first one to email them, but what the hey...
    • It's the cookies. Any genuine name/email address info they get is just a bonus

      Why should they be bothered that a small percentage of surfers circumvent their [lame] access requirements? As long as the bulk of visitors are signing in and accepting cookies (NYT's own and 3rd parties') then they'll be quite happy. After all, as even /. claims [slashdot.org], cookies are not voodoo or mind control. Riiiight. Can someone justify this latter statement or NYT's policy, with special reference to the difference between permanent and session cookies? Thankfully, Junkbuster is your friend and can be configured to send a cookie to a specific site without accepting one in return. My /. cookie must be getting a bit mouldy by now...

  • Well duh, did this guy just learn about the internet or something? Sure ecommerce has sucked as of late, or so the stock market analysts keep telling us. It's mind boggling that they actually published that, I really can't think of anything to say...except...

    No shit Sherlock.
  • Before I became involved with computers, I was a completely different person than I am now. I was more concerned with getting laid, drinking beer and poping any pills I could find. My job was a vehicle for funding my vices.

    After playing Wolf3d in high school, I found something that facinated me to the point of BBSing and being the first in my area on the Net. The net itself has taught me a whole new value system. I have picked up books to teach myself languages... soemthing they could not beat me into in High School. Although my job is still a vehicle for funding my vices.. but my vices are more healthy for me. 8)

  • "Q. You don't seem to think governments can be effective in breaking a monopoly.

    A. Antitrust enforcement is a hippopotamus. It lumbers in after the game is over.
    "
    Aint that true...
  • This is right wing hogwash. Monopolies run forever because they eliminate competition. If may get lazy, but that just makes them more likely to resort to illegal tactics, not more likely to go under despite massive market advantages.

    That's why he can't site a single example to make his case. Monopolies ran forever, hence the anti-trust laws were required to ensure a vibrant economy.
    • by Rimbo ( 139781 ) <{ten.labolgcbs} {ta} {ytisobmir}> on Monday August 27, 2001 @06:56PM (#2223312) Homepage Journal
      "Monopolies run forever because they eliminate competition."

      No, they all end, because acquiring a monopoly in a market is a sign of market commoditization. In other words, monopoly power is doomed to fail because their monopolies become irrelevant. The marketplace is always changing, and if you stop chasing the moving target, it doesn't matter if you're the master of your domain -- you'll be left behind.

      The only monopolies that last are those that are enforced as monopolies, such as the power company.

      I've been looking more closely at Microsoft as a business lately. They are in big trouble. Every major source of income they have has become commoditized -- there are several free alternatives to their OS and "Office" software packages. What's more, this software is as good, if not better, than anything Microsoft makes. Lastly, interoperable standards -- such as HTML, XML, Java, and TCP/IP -- have made what OS you use largely irrelevant for the most popular computing tasks. (And before you quote some random special-purpose app that doesn't work on BeOS or something, re-read that sentence, especially the word "popular.")

      What's more, the steps they've recently taken to defend that monopoly either alienate consumers (restrictive licensing) or haven't a prayer of becoming profitable (X-box). Losing market share + lack of profitability = bad news. The whole goal of the X-box is to sell the product at a loss to get it in people's homes, and then use it as a source of other income. Good idea, except that (a) gamers are fickle, and are always looking to the new best thing, and (b) game consoles are used for games. PC's and Macs are used for surfing.

      No, he's RIGHT. The antitrust case should continue, but Microsoft is in real trouble right now, and their current moves are only making things look worse.

      The internet has made the OS you use irrelevant. Microsoft is pulling out all of the stops to keep this from happening. What they SHOULD be doing is pulling out the stops to find new relevance.
      • I've been looking more closely at Microsoft as a business lately. They are in big trouble.

        ...

        What's more, the steps they've recently taken to defend that monopoly either alienate consumers (restrictive licensing) or haven't a prayer of becoming profitable (X-box).

        What about .NET? A Microsoft tax on all online transactions seems like it could be very profitable and I'm not sure how it would alienate users since the tax will just be built into the price that users see initially and they probably won't realize that Microsoft is involved at all. .NET seems like a reaction to the unavoidable obsolescence that you are talking about.

        Whether or not .NET will be the silver bullet that Microsoft is relying on is unknown right now, but it definitely sounds like the backup strategy which you say they need. I'm certainly willing to go to great lengths to avoid using .NET myself (no way do I want to give Microsoft access to my financial data with their past history of insecurity), but they have made a good business of getting people to pay for their shoddy stuff so far, so why can't they do it again?

        Don't forget, they have a war chest so massive that they can afford to do really stupid things for awhile, just so long as they stumble onto a good solution eventually. I remember when IE3 came out and Microsoft started their enormous push to kill Netscape. I installed IE3 and after using it for a few minutes I thought that there was no way they could overtake Netscape because IE3 was such a hideous, buggy monstrosity. Now look where we are half a decade later. Microsoft uses time to its advantage extremely well.

        • Whether or not .NET will be the silver bullet that Microsoft is relying on is unknown right now, but it definitely sounds like the backup strategy which you say they need. I'm certainly willing to go to great lengths to avoid using .NET myself (no way do I want to give Microsoft access to my financial data with their past history of insecurity), but they have made a good business of getting people to pay for their shoddy stuff so far, so why can't they do it again?

          You answered your own question: "No way do I want to give MS access to my financial data!" There's a lot of mistrust of Microsoft in the world, even from the people who are wiling to use Microsoft's products.

          This isn't a case where they've hit the killer OEM deal that has them set for the next decade, like DOS. Microsoft, with that no exceptions, doesn't get things right on the first try in the few cases when they try to do something themselves (as opposed to buying someone else's idea). And, it's rare for lightning to strike twice in the same spot.

          It's an attempt, and it might generate revenue. But even the most slobberingly optimistic forecasts about .NET don't predict that this will lead to Microsoft dominance of an industry.

          An even simpler question that few have asked is: Why? Why do I want to use .NET when I get the same functionality doing things the way I do them now? This is a real problem; in order to sell something, you have to have something to sell that people can't get better and for free elsewhere.

          And that's the same problem they have with Windows.
          • You answered your own question: "No way do I want to give MS access to my financial data!" There's a lot of mistrust of Microsoft in the world, even from the people who are wiling to use Microsoft's products.

            Sure there is a lot of mistrust of Microsoft, but that comes mostly from those that take an interest in computers (i.e., not most people). I don't think that most people distrust Microsoft enough to question the ramifications of what their software does. Five years down the line when people turn on their computer to go pay their bills, they will happily go along with Clippy when he tells them that the way to pay their phone bill is to just click on "OK". They won't question where the information is coming from which is used for the transaction because 1) they will assume this must be the right way to do it because that's the only option the program gave and 2) they wouldn't know how to find an alternative means of payment even if they were uneasy about the magic being performed.

            I don't think that distrust of Microsoft will be the downfall of .NET. It may mean that no nerds will use .NET, but Microsoft will be perfectly happy collecting money from everybody but the nerds. If I had to guess what will make .NET an underwhelming success (or abysmal failure), my few guesses would be:

            • Lack of critical mass - You touched on this briefly. .NET will need to be adopted by a significant number of websites for it to be of any real value to end users and for it to make any real money from Microsoft. Will enough sites be willing to risk their business to be early adopters? My guess is that if things don't pick up quickly enough Microsoft will find ways to "encourage" adoption as they have in the past with their other products (e.g., IE 8 will only talk to sites that use .NET).
            • Lack of security - Microsoft wants to go from writing desktop software to essentially being a bank. The masses may not distrust Microsoft enough to avoid .NET, but distrust is only one side effect of having poor security - losing a whole boatload of money to theft is a much bigger problem. In my opinion, if .NET is successful it is only a matter of time before a cracker pulls off one of the largest heists in history.
            • Microsoft's War on Copyright Infringement ("Piracy") - How much do you want to bet that .NET will only work with registered versions of Windows (eventually, if not right away)? This will make .NET unusable by the majority of the world (forget the US - the majority of the world uses illegal copies). Websites wishing to sell products will obviously not want to lock out the majority of the world, so .NET is unlikely to become the only choice (in the same sense that Windows is today).

            Actually, those are my best guesses for now, and unfortunately it's not a very long list. I do hope that you're right and I'm wrong and users will just not use .NET as that's probably the best way to kill it before it spreads too far.

            An even simpler question that few have asked is: Why? Why do I want to use .NET when I get the same functionality doing things the way I do them now? This is a real problem; in order to sell something, you have to have something to sell that people can't get better and for free elsewhere.

            Your data is centralized and redundancy is eliminated. The direct benefits to you are that it takes less time to do things online (you no longer have to fill out a whole slew of information when you want to sign up somewhere) and errors are reduced (from typos). It's a nice idea and something that I would like, but Microsoft is one of the last places on Earth I would want to be in control of this.

            • It really doesn't matter what the average user thinks, even if they are thinking about it (outside of this site, there is a huge number of people who would gladly give MS complete control over their computer so they needn't worry about it).

              The adoption of .NET and its add-ons will be driven by corporations and government as an easy means of authenticating transactions. My bank does online banking, and I cannot (will not) use it because it requires a Win32 app. As far as they are concerned, if Windows is OK for 95% of the population, why can't I use it?

              Then there's added attractions to content providers in that Linux will likely never offer the complete chain of security that MS can offer. Want to watch Titanic IV? You'll need Windows08 and a valid passport account.

              Titanic IV will be far more important to the web surfers of tommorrow than chosing their OS (which is a commodity anyway) or the prospect of some spook reading their credit card bills.

              Xix.
      • I'm thinking about upgrading to Win XP, but since its just a commodity, there should be several alternatives that differ only in price. How about that new one from Apple, OS-X. Well, I called them up and they said it probably wouldn't work on my Dell computer without some major tweaking. I'll pass on that.

        Next, I called a few of those Linux folks. Red Hat said sure, it'll run fine. Of course, they can't guarantee that all my games and other applications will run OK. But, they can point me in the direction of some application providers that may be able to help. I'll pass on that one too.

        Maybe the OS isn't a commodity after all.

        And about X-box. They're losing money on each X-box they sell, but the game people send Microsoft money every time they sell a game. The gross margin in licensing is about as close to 100% as you can get. I hear that Sony is making out pretty will with theirs.
        • And about X-box. They're losing money on each X-box they sell, but the game people send Microsoft money every time they sell a game. The gross margin in licensing is about as close to 100% as you can get.

          Margins don't mean diddly-squat if you can't cover your operating expenses and investment. If they sell ninety million games and get $20 a pop, but spend 2 billion on marketing and developing the machine, guess what? They lose money. To the tune of $200M. Now I'm just dragging these numbers out of my ass, but MSFT officials have stated publicly that they're not in the game industry because they think "Wow, this is a great new market for us to tackle!" No.

          Sony mentioned something about using the PS2 to get into every home, to be a platform for all people to use. When Sony made that announcement, Microsoft went into full-on defense mode. In MS' eyes, Sony was invading their territory.

          The whole plan behind the X-box is: Defend our turf. Defend the monopoly. Keep everyone else out. And it's worthwhile to them to lose money if they can steal mindshare away from Sony.

          But they can't steal mindshare. Sony looks only as good as the PS2 does; nobody looks at the GameCube and thinks, "Gee, the N64 wasn't that great, I don't think this one will be as good, either." And people's hesitations about buying the X-box ("Let's see if there are any better games...") are no different from their hesitations about the Cube or any other new console.

          I used to believe that the X-box was Microsoft's way of getting into a new market, but then someone slapped me upside the head with the facts, and quotes from Microsoft officials. They're not in the game industry to make money. And you know what? They won't. But the effect will be more far-reaching than the realize, because they won't really be getting anything for that cost.
      • Actually, I think MS is in trouble for other reasons. Namely, because they were too successful. Anti-MS rhetoric aside, they actually made a really nice OS with Win95 (and later improved on it with Win98 and Win2000). They also have a pretty good Office suite available with Office 97/2000.

        Now remember when I mean good, I mean for Joe Sixpack who only cares that pressing the "power" button turns on his computer and opening Word lets him write up a letter to print out. This is the majority of computer users. Let's keep the whole "switch to Linux" argument out of here for now to simplify matters.

        The problem MS is facing is that Win9x/2000 and Office 97/2000 are *too* good. There's little incentive to upgrade. They've painted themselves into a corner. What reason do I have to upgrade from Win98 to WinXP? Fancy new graphics? Extra stability? (Not really that big of a selling point to the masses.) Product Activation?

        Actually, PA is where MS is probably hoping to save themselves. While you can use Win98 on your PC until the CD turns to dust, WinXP could be remotely "discontinued."

        Think of this scenario: It's 2008 and you decided to format your partition and reinstall from your WinXP CD. Nothing's changed on your system, you just decided to start from scratch. So you format, install and attempt activation. Oops! MS's servers are reporting that WinXP isn't being supported anymore. You are instructed to buy a copy of Win08 (or whatever the naming scheme is then). Same for that copy of Office XP. Bingo! What could have been a no-$$$ proposition for MS has just made them some more dough.

        Of course, take PA away (either by being forced to or by it being hacked) and MS's revenue stream will slowly dry up. Not that they'll disappear overnight, but they'll probably become like IBM -- powerful, but not quite as powerful as they used to be.
      • MS are not standing still either. With .NET and hailstorm, they want to control the transaction infrastructure (and exacting a toll from people using it). MS would be hoping that their current position will hold long enough for them to entrench .NET. Commodity components don't count for anything if someone else owns the keys.

        Xix.
    • Actually there is a few examples of old monopolies dying out. The East India Company is perhaps the best example. Just like countries, times change, power shifts, and different things become more important.
    • It's pretty well known that monopolies can only exist on a free market by producing excellent products at excellent prices. If you look closer at the nasty monopolies we all dislike, you'll normally find that they are not operating on a free market, but owe their position to government privilege. These days you buy that position using campaign contributions etc. The solution is to get the government out of that market, not to make it micro manage it further.

      If you read the article you'll see that Holstein is never asked to provide an example, so claiming that he can't cite one is quite dishonest. That rw2 doesn't provide one example of these monopolies that "run forever" himself is also telling.
      • What is pretty well known is that monopolies can exist for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their products, or government intervention. The monopoly can be enforced by the necessity of interoperation.

        The best example of this is driving on the right/left side of the road. Which side your community chooses might start out being arbitrary,
        but pretty soon the 'users' are locked into whatever the choice was. Luckily noone has yet had
        the wit to patent sided driving. Note that Sweden was able to undo its monopoly of left-handed driving, in order to interoperate more effectively with the rest of Europe, but the difficulty they had still reinforces the point.

        Another good example is the querty keyboard, which was adopted precisely because it was inferior, (forcing slower typing precluded key jams), but made an empire for its inventor because the first secretaries learned it and everyone else had to follow.

        This type of effect can be understood by recourse to mathematics (try game theory) or history, which
        may be Left-Wing Hogwash, but believe me, hogwash might just be refreshing and even educational after a steady diet of whatever you have been imbibing.
        • Another good example is the querty keyboard, which was adopted precisely because it was inferior, (forcing slower typing precluded key jams), but made an empire for its inventor because the first secretaries learned it and everyone else had to follow.

          Sorry, that's been disproven:

          http://www.independent.org/tii/news/liebowitz_econ omist.html [independent.org]
          • They should be clearer in their thinking. Take this paragraph:

            Which is all very interesting, but the point is this: if you have learned to type on a QWERTY keyboard, the cost of retraining for Dvorak (however modest) is not worth paying. This implies, in turn, that the QWERTY standard is efficient. There is no market failure.

            The key words? "if you have learned to type on...". This is the exact phenomenon desribed by lock-in.

            Now is the DVORAK keyboard better? Maybe. Maybe not. Is QWERTY the best keyboard out there? Doubtful. With what we know about ergonomics now, someone could very likely come up with a keyboard that minimizes the problems of QWERTY while maximizing it's efficiencies. Will anyone do this? Of course not. There's too much of an infrastructure built around the QWERTY style.

            And THAT is a market failure due to a monopoly.

            Kwil

      • It's pretty well known that monopolies can only exist on a free market by producing excellent products at excellent prices. If you look closer at the nasty monopolies we all dislike, you'll normally find that they are not operating on a free market, but owe their position to government privilege.

        Actually, being a right-winger myself, I can tell you that there is also plenty of right-wing 'hogwash' that that ought to argue for government intervention in breaking up monopolies. The free market assumes relatively easy entry and exit from the marketplace, which just isn't accurate in industries based upon infrastrucure (e.g., utilities, where it only makes sense to have one set of sewers running to each home) or infested with an over-powerful monopoly.

        The latter case is most relevant with regards to the Internet; the costs of entering the marketplace, as a competitor to Microsoft's core market, viz. OS, are prohibitive. To use the steam enginge example, introducing a new OS would be like trying to introduce a new railway gauge: even if your gauge is superior (in terms of safety or turning speed), it will fail because the entire continent has already been laid using the other system; everyone's trains are made to run on that gauge. Of course, in the real world anyone could lay two steel railings the appropriate distance apart and manufacture a line on which everyone could travel; now, only the inventor of the gauge may lay that track, and as everyone's trains are made to run on Microsoft's track, only Microsoft can lay track. Thus, in order to compete with Microsoft, one would have to get large numbers to switch to a new gauge of railway; this would be prohibitively expensive, if not impossible.

        That, as I said, was right-wing hogwash (remember that Teddy Roosevelt was a trust-buster). Left-wing hogwash would have things about "the circuitry of the Internet being cooled by the blood of the workers," as such.

    • You are absolutely correct this guy offers regergetated nonsense and passes it off as internet insights. The very idea that monoplies are good things is foolish, and the thought that they self destruct is ridiculous. Standard Oil, US Steel, AT&T, none of these would have selfdestruced had the government left them alone. Too bad right wingers can't wrap there head around ideas of right (correct) and wrong.
    • This is right wing hogwash. Monopolies run forever because they eliminate competition. If may get lazy, but that just makes them more likely to resort to illegal tactics, not more likely to go under despite massive market advantages.

      That's why he can't site a single example to make his case. Monopolies ran forever, hence the anti-trust laws were required to ensure a vibrant economy.

      And this is left-wing hogwash.

      Henry Ford initially had massive market share, and decided to treat his customers arrogantly (his famous "you can have it in any color you want, as long as it's black" statement). Competitors sprang up to take advantage of this, not killing Ford Motors but pushing it back to being merely one of the "big three" auto companies, instead of undisputed top dog. When the eventually-complacent big three got hit with the gas crisis of the 70's, the Japanese automakers moved in, to the point where Chrysler had to go begging from the government.

      Word Perfect used to rule the word processor market. Then they dug in their heels, trying to stay in DOS when the consumers wanted to move to Windows 3.1, and they got toppled.

      Hayes once dominated modem sales. Do they even exist anymore?

      Atari was the leader in video games, when the industry first started. Then for a while, Nintendo was pretty much the only system anyone wanted. Then, the Playstation came in and established itself on at least equal footing.

    • Monopolies run forever because they eliminate competition


      Absolute monopolies are impossible without government intervention. For example, let's say you had the widget market sewn up, and decided to raise your prices. Now, one of two things will happen: either investors will realise that this is a high margin business and invest in (or start) companies that will compete, or the market will find an alternative, and buy that in preference to your widgets. In today's world, an alternative could be a very similar product imported from another market. Competing against an entrenched monopoly isn't difficult for a startup, because it is economical for them to tailor their products to a niche, something a huge producer often can't do. Once the startup starts to enjoy economy of scale, they can begin to compete with the entrenched company on price, too.

      Of course, if your products are of high quality and good price, and you have a monopoly, then the market will not react against that - why should it? Monopolies aren't inherently bad, altho' in the short term, they can be abused.

      The only way a monopoly can survive is if the government intervenes to prevent the market's natural response. And even that can't last, what good will a widget monopoly give you if the market decides what it really wants are gadgets?

      The Free Market works. State intervention does not. Here endeth today's lesson.

  • I would imagine that Mr. Steele's article might be a little premature in looking at the economic impact of the 'net. The Internet itself may have been around for a while, but the Web (which for all intents and purposes has been driving this economic 'boom') has only been around for slightly more than 10 years (slight being in the order of months).

    It's the mode of the day for pundits to jump on the bandwagon and look at the economic impact of the net, but in terms of history, we're still looking at the birth of this industry. It's too early to truly gauge the real impact.

    Despite the recent bubble burst, I think the golden days are still to come. Where we are now is at the dawn of a new age, akin to the very earliest decade of the Industrial Revolution. What happens next will change the world, beyond anything we could imagine.

    • Despite the recent bubble burst, I think the golden days are still to come. Where we are now is at the dawn of a new age, akin to the very earliest decade of the Industrial Revolution. What happens next will change the world, beyond anything we could imagine.

      I keep trying to draw a line between where we are now and where the Star Trek universe is in terms of a global(galactic?) economic utopian existence -- and I can't do it. Too much still has to happen.

      Stupid economy, mature already! The Internet has certainly made me more impatient.
      • Even our inevitable economy of abundance won't guarantee a "utopian existence" for the simple reason that we humans are still too primitive for our own good.

        It'll take a lot of hard work to "weed out" the negative aspects of human nature [hedweb.com] that no longer serve our accelerating evolutionary progess.

    • It's the mode of the day for pundits to jump on the bandwagon and look at the economic impact of the net, but in terms of history, we're still looking at the birth of this industry. It's too early to truly gauge the real impact.

      Sure, but that's what makes this one's commentary MORE valid, not less: The fact is, some new world-changing technology arriving on the scene is not a new event, but rather a new instance of an event. And just like instances of classes, you can get an idea of the functionality of the class by looking at past instances.

      Each new technological revolution follows certain themes, and analyzing them by looking at past revolutions is a sensible way to look at what's happening now.

      In essence, he's saying what you just said -- that we'll have no clue what the impact is for a while. But moreover, he's contradicting the current belief that the internet boom was nothing more than a fad. Our lives, how we work and how we live, have forever been changed. The world just became a very different place; the difference between 2000 and 1990 is far greater than 1990 and 1980.

      He's identified that this series of pundits all making predictions is just another part of what's occurred in past instances as well. He's not playing the role of pundit. He's playing the role of Historian.

    • Man, do you guys even read the articles anymore? If you did, you might notice the guy specifically says that we won't notice any significant impact for at least 100 years.
    • Despite the recent bubble burst, I think the golden days are still to come. Where we are now is at the dawn of a new age, akin to the very earliest decade of the Industrial Revolution. What happens next will change the world, beyond anything we could imagine.

      And I shall be the Charles Dickens of this new world, catalogueing the various indignities that the modem-equipped Internet user must face at the hands of a world run by broadbanders, even though I was only a modem-user for a relatively short time and have since switched to broadband.

      "My father's domain name being PeerIP, and my username PurrUp6894, my infantile typing skills could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than PP. So I called myself PP, and came to be called PP."

  • Yup..different people saming the same thing time and time again. We know this is (or is not) a "new economy" .. There's enough references to the Industrial revolution and the railroad. This interview really said nothing new...
  • After Lindbergh flew to Paris in 1927, for example, there was a bubble in aviation stocks. People rushed in without even knowing what they were buying. It turned out that one, Seaboard Airlines, was a poetically named railroad. It wasn't an airline at all.

    How many companies emulated this paradigm during the dot-com boom? I think we saw ".com" tacked onto the end of every company in existence in the space of 2 years. As I drive down the main drag in town, I see furniture stores with ".com" on their 20-foot-high-letter signs! They define themselves by their Internet presence...

    As easy as it is now to sit back and make accurate historical analogies, I didn't see anyone doing it in 2000. All the same, he has a point.
  • No-registration URL (Score:5, Informative)

    by ddstreet ( 49825 ) <ddstreetNO@SPAMieee.org> on Monday August 27, 2001 @06:41PM (#2223273) Homepage
    You can view the story without registering here [nytimes.com].

    Just change 'www.nytimes.com' to 'archive.nytimes.com' for any URL (I think).

    So here, it's
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/26/business/26SVAL. html [nytimes.com]
    to
    http://archive.nytimes.com/2001/08/26/business/26S VAL.html [nytimes.com]

    • Enough with your whining about the New York Times registration.

      Its their web site, it is up to them how they want to manage it.

      If you dont like it STOP LINKING TO THEIR ARTICLES.

      But since its seems the NYTimes is providing a great portion of your content, thats not very likely is it?
    • Oh, it's archive.nytimes.com now? I lose track. Used to be partners.nytimes.com, until they noticed how many people were using it. Obviously they only want users of partner sites to bypass their registration system. Sooner or later, they'll get their act together and implement an effective referral filter. Sooner, if we keep making them change the site name.

      On the other hand, if they get 100,000 complaint emails, they'll realize that they're losing traffic, and thus revenue, and discard their registration system.

      • Re:Complain anyway (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jonbrewer ( 11894 )
        What's your problem with the NYTimes registration system? I registered back in 1996 and have never had any problems nor received any junk mail from them. It hasn't cost me a cent, nor given away any more information about myself than "person with cookie n has these browsing/reading habits."

        They're a private company, providing a service, and earning their keep through advertising, which benefits from registration and tracking.

        If registration and tracking of users and what articles they read helps them a. target appropriate banner ads to browsers and/or b. publish more successful content, they're certainly not going to get rid of registration, no matter how much you complain.

        (note: at the 2001 MIT Image and Meaning conference, I think the Times Science editor said they didn't select topics and articles based on readership statistics gathered from the web, but I highly doubt they're not influenced in some way by how successful certain topics are.)
        • What's your problem with the NYTimes registration system? I registered back in 1996 and have never had any problems nor received any junk mail from them.
          I don't have a single machine, I don't have a single browser.

          So: I won't register every time I move around. Too bad for them; if they can't implement a quick and usable system for people who don't carry cookies in their pockets, they won't get any registration information from me.

  • I rather doubt that a Brit from 1720 would have found the Britain of 1820 incomphrehensible just because it had railroads. A Brit from 1720 would have found most of today's world comprehensible, actually. Change is change, but let's not get carried away.
    • We live in an accelerating culture. The difference between the change from 1901 to 2001 is far greater than the change from 1720 to 1820. If you imagine how confused someone living in during the turn of the (19 to 20th) century would feel if suddenly transported to today, you can be sure that it would be much more confusing to move somone from today to say.. 2101.

      And if you don't believe that technology is accelerating, you might want to check out the number of patents issued in the past ten years versus the number of patents issued over say.. the 1960's. Even if you discount the fact that patents are arguably more often frivolous now, it still remains that invention is occuring on a much broader scale, at a faster rate.

      A fundamental technology (like the electric motor, or the internet) provides a tremendous base for innovation. It seems to take a good number of years before the technology is sort of "taken for granted". There are many potential applications and adaptations of the Internet and its fundamental technologies that we haven't even begun to explore (and no, I don't know what possibilites are, else I would be on a path to big $$$).

      Its also interesting to note, that the time for society to accept new technology on a widespread basis has also decreased. Example: Television took between 20 - 30 years before it could be considered a widespread technology. VCR's took 10 - 15 years. CD's 8 - 10. DVD's, while not quite widespread, are looking like they are going to be around 5 years or so (from the time that a large number of commericial players were offered to consumers, to their (relatively) widespread acceptance, and usage). It seems to me that it took people alot less time to get used to dvd's than cd's (I judge this from working at a library which didn't have cd's in its collection until the early 90's, but started offering dvd's in 1999).

      So, change is not necessarily change, when you consider the fact that the amount of change taking place in a given period of time is increasing at a dramatic rate.
  • He compares the
    economic effect of the Internet to various other technological revolutions, especially the introduction of steam power in the
    early 19th century.


    Yep. So this latest revolution must be the better revolution. Steamy pron, instead of just hot air.

    -1 Not funny
    -1 x-rated
    -1 off-topic
    -1 trying too hard

  • (click here to tell them how much traffic their silly registration system costs them)

    Unless you guys are payed per word that you add to the articles (in which case complaining about the registration system is a nice way to make some extra money) I wouldn't mind if you stopped complaining about it.

    The NY Times has setup a website so you can with relative ease access their articles. All they ask is that you register. Enter a random name, a password you forget immediately, an email address which points to your yahoo.com address, set your country to Afghanistan (with their one IP address :-) and some more random information.

    If you don't like the way the NY Times handles its website (or the stupidity that you still can read the articles without being registered (hey, why don't you post these links then?)) you should stop posting articles from that site...

    Edwin, tired of this constant complaining :-)
    • In submissions, text in italics is text written by the submitter, not a Slashdot editor. And I dont think fm6 gets paid anything to submit stories (do you?), be they two words or a novel.

      Secondly, I think Slashdot not posting links to the unregistered content is a good thing if suddenly archive.nytimes.com was getting upwards of 25 hits per seconds, someone over there would notice and shut it down. Remember, before archive it was channel.nytimes.com, and thats gone now.
  • by Toddarooski ( 12363 ) on Monday August 27, 2001 @07:57PM (#2223501)
    (click here to tell them how much traffic their silly registration system costs them)

    Dear New York Times Reader Feedback:

    It has come to my attention that you require reader registration to have access to your articles. Don't you realize that this costs you several opportunities to be Slashdotted every month? Other sites enjoy the pleasure of watching their service grind to a screeching halt whenever somebody on Slashdot finds an interesting article -- don't miss out on this wonderful opportunity!

    Slashdot readers are generally upper-middle class with lots of disposable income, and would be a very valuable commodity to your advertisers, if it weren't for the fact that 80% of them use banner ad blockers to block out all your ads, and the other 20% just write Perl scripts to grab your content directly.

    Anyway, I hope you take my words to heart and realize the sooner you make your content free and unrestricted, the sooner your site will end up on fuckedcompany and we can make fun of you for giving away all your content for free.

    Sincerely,

    A concerned reader

    There. I think that oughta do it.

  • The plantation masters. Yep - they were the economic future of America

    Yep, they were entitled to slaves because they put money and effort into them

    And without slavery, they had no *incentive* to grow cotton or tobacco

    even better, if you freed a slave, you were stealing

    and I pitty those poor fools who thought that the slave states could nicely get along with the free states.

    to the plantation masters, technology ment using the cotton gyn and slaves to run bigger plantations than ever in history - yep thats what they thought the industrial revolution was about.

    however, when it all hit the fan, nobody ever expected so much loss in life and property, the civil war was brutal

    • to the plantation masters, technology ment using the cotton gyn and slaves to run bigger plantations than ever in history - yep thats what they thought the industrial revolution was about.


      The industrial revolution also ended slavery. The growing industrialization of America mirrored in many ways the industrialization of Britian, in that sentiment towards slavery grew largely dissaproving amoung the industrialized. This mechanization suggested that it was no longer necessary to use slaves. Profit margins could now potentially be maintained without free labour.

      Of course, the south would remain virtually the same even after the Civil War until industrialization became as widespread there as in the north.

      As much as I dislike the MPAA / RIAA, I don't think we'll see a parallel between them and slavery. The RIAA essentially has been defeated by a technological revolution in which all copy-protection schemes can be defeated (All. I doubt there is, or will be any widespread protection scheme for software, audio, video, etc.. that can stand up over time). The RIAA are trying plug up the dike, but its already burst. They totally missed the mp3.
    • Yeah, like the causes of the civil war had anything to do with slavery....
  • Is it just me, or were the authors observations really shallow.

    I don't think that Internet is as revolutionary as the steam engine. The steam engine provided a new source of power, which until then has been provided by animals, wind and water. This was a huge transformation.

    The Internet is just an incremental improvement on the telegraph. It was the invention of telegraph (in lat 18th century) that revolutionized communications. Until then a message could travel as fast as a horseman.

    The electric telegraph network of mid 19th century is the obvious precursor of today's Internet.

    ...richie

  • Some technologies are more fundamental than others. [...] The Internet is one of those very fundamental technologies; the microchip is another.
    I think that in 100 years time everybody will just be referring to this era as "electronic revolution" or "information-revolution".
    After all, we do not talk about "Spinning-Jenny type steam engine"-revolution and railroad-revolution. We only talk about industrial revolution.

    Actually the similarities between the steam-revolution and our current era are quite striking.
    First came the few isolated pioneers (Spinning-Jenny-type machines vs. first computers) and couple of decades later we have huge networks of the things connecting places that were before considered remote and far away (Railroads vs. Internet).

    Industrial revolution led to urbanization and completely changed the role of workers. I can only wait and watch how the "information revolution" will effect us...

  • Steel and software (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dgroskind ( 198819 )

    Gordon says: Old Andrew Carnegie's formula still applies. Whether you're making steel or software, you invest to be the low-cost producer.

    Could there be any two products more different than steel and software? Could the costs of production be calculated any more differently?

    In software economics, there are no economies of scale. There's no concept of a vertical monopoly like Carnegie had. Assets for software companies are all labour, not capital equipment. Cost of manufacturing software is trivial while for steel, cost of manufacturing is the name of the game. In the steel industry you can invest to cut cost; in software you invest to improve quality.

    Steel is capital intensive. Software companies have been started for pocket change.

    Successful software companies can meet any competitive threat through upgrades and innovation. Steel companies are nearly powerless to deal with competitive threats from cheaper and stronger materials like new plastics and alloys.

    Carnegie is, in fact, better remembered today for his idealistic theories of philanthropy [andrewcarnegie.org]. I suspect that the 19th century industrialists probably don't have much of value to tell the information economy beyond the homilies [usdreams.com] of thrift and hardwork. Even those don't apply so much.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2001 @01:44AM (#2224368) Homepage
    The steam engine era really began a huge change in history. There hadn't been much technological progress in the previous 1000 years. GNP increased a few percent per century prior to the industrial revolution. The major developments of the 1000 years preceding the steam engine were the horse-collar, some tricks for making steel in small quantities, stirrups, mechanical clocks, and some improvements in plows. That's about it.

    It took about a century, from 1600 to about 1700, to develop the components needed for a steam engine. Steam powered water pumps (no piston, just valves) were developed, and were useful enough to get a very modest boiler industry going.

    Newcomen, in 1705, had the first useful steam engine, although it wasn't very good. Newcomen had it backwards; he let the steam into the cylinder at maximum displacement, then injected water to condense the steam within the cylinder, allowing atmospheric pressure to move the piston in compression. It took until 1768 before Watt fixed this and got it right.

    Suddenly things speeded up. By 1781, Watt had all the components of the modern steam engine - valve gear, governor, flywheel, indicating devices, and double-acting piston. 1782 brought the steam hammer, the first power tool. This was a major step - steam engines providing the power to make more steam engines. 1784 brought the first model locomotive, although it was 1804 before the first full-sized one, and 1825 until one that was commercially useful.

    Then things really speeded up. 30 MPH in 1829. Railroads went everywhere in the next 30 years. So did industry. The rest, of course, is history.

    Now that was a technological singularity. The Internet looks minor compared to steam.

  • Providing you accept that the growth of the Internet/Web is a revolution, the question remains: Why do you think this is still the dawn ?

    One of the obvious trends that information technology brings about is the shortening of the time between inception and acceptance. It steepens the s-curve. In short, predicting the future of the Internet from the time it took for the steam engine to change the world is a mug's game - the world of today isn't that world.

    True, the human machine can only accept change at a certain rate. But even that rate is increasing. In prehistory the adoption of a new technology took hundreds of years. By the time of the railroad it was 50-100. Today we are closer to 5-10 years. We are conditioned to accept change at a faster rate, to latch on to the latest and newest every year, not every generation.

    My guess is that we have basically passed the inflection point for adoption of the Internet/Web Mk1. Many people are out there trying to find its replacement, the Internet/Web Mk2. Maybe its wearable computers and wireless; maybe its the semantic web. While it will have its roots in the Internet of today, it will be different.

    Yes, the Internet is a revolution, but its nearly over. Long live the next revolution.

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