Monday, August 26, 2002

The Dirty Net
According to New York Times, the only businesses on the net which makes money at the moment are ebay and amazon - and those involved in porn, fraud and spam. The article makes it sound like the net is sinking with the weight of the "dark side".

Porn and fraud have always been easy ways to money, and it might be correct that apart from the junk, only the really large corporations are able to become profitable. But saying that the net is not profitable is a blind and onesided approach. There is a reason why only a few companies are broadcasting companies, or why the film industry is weak in countries like little Norway. Good communication takes effort, expertice and practice. And in Norway we hardly even have a porn-film industry to practice on.

There are two types of profit off the net.
The one version, which New York Times discuss, is direct: fit a business plan to depend on the net, the way ebay does, launch it and make money. Porn is eminently suited to this approach: It's easy to distribute, it's in high demand, and the net makes it hard to track, discrete and impulsive. Amazon, which sell goods that are somewhat more complicated to distribute, struggles not with the customer side, but with the off-line distribution.

The other version is using the net to make exisiting products more available and let them get more attention. This is where it's hard to measure the impact of the net in money, just as it's hard to measure the impact of a commercial directed towards changing attitudes. But it's also impossible to say that it does not make a difference. Why does NYTimes have a web-rpesence if it does not profit from it in some way or an other? Why does all the other actors - not to mention the research communities? What are the secondary benefits of the World Wide Web?

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