Posted by: rolfsky | January 4, 2007

the falling barriers to entry

In an earlier post, I asserted that what’s commonly being called Web 2.0 is really the product of a series of conditions. As the barriers to entry into a web product or service have consistently decreased, building “something cool” has become increasingly accessible. We now see people building and hosting applications in a weekend that would have taken enterprises years to develop and deliver. We are beginning to see the first inklings of what the internet always promised us, the ability for an individual to publish their own viewpoints to a massive audience for little or no cost. Global distribution of information to an immense audience can now be had for as little as free, like this very journal for instance. I paid nothing for my account, I can access it either on a computer at work or home, both of which are essentially sunk costs. And what does this mean for the average individual? Scrimshaw, or rosemaling. For those of you not familiar with scrimshaw and rosemaling, take a jump over to our favorite friend, Wikipedia for a minute and read up on them. Both of these are considered decorative arts, to a greater or lesser degree practiced in leisure time for largely personal satisfaction. Other key elements? Both can be done with readily accessible tools (even on a whaling ship you can get yourself a knife and a whale tooth!), and the product is defined by the individuals skills. Now, not everyone is equally able to scrimshaw or paint an S or C shaped flower, but those who do, may find it rewarding. They get to make something, and they like that. Jumping back into the present, let us compare these handicrafts to the explosion of Web 2.0 sites which have a commercial value which is difficult to pin down.

  • they are created with available tools that are nearly free
  • their creation is enjoyed as much or possibly more than the actual finished product
  • individuals who aren’t skilled in their creation, generally don’t labor away at it
  • they all can be “shown off” with a sense of pride
  • they are a labor of love, where time to market and personal investment are largely ignored
  • they are created for use by the author, because they thought it would be cool

And what have we learned here? People get bored, they like to work on projects. The people who 100 years ago would have been carving whale teeth, or making bird-houses in their basements now have a different set of tools available to them. Instead of hammers, saws, drills and sharp knives, they have PHP, free web-hosting, routers, switches, home PCs, Apache and HTML. The big difference? Instead of being stuck on the mantle as an oddity, their creations can be accessed by millions around the world.

It’s hobbycraft, times one meeeelion.

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