Monday, September 22, 2008

Internet as a socialist revolution (Part II of Internet, socialism and marketing)

Is there anyone who has not heard of the article "Is Google making us stupid?" by Nicholas Carr? I read a review of the article by Jill Dahlstrom recently and it partly inspired me to write this series you are reading now. The one part that drew my attention was the claimed economic model of the internet:
"Carr explains how the economic model of the Internet is based on the volume of clicks and page views. ..... New media ads are strategically placed in and around articles, and some are animated so that they draw the eye away from the primary page content. The more we click, the more money Google and other search marketers make."
After reading this I thought, "Is this really all that there is to Internet? Is this what has become of one of the greatest inventions of mankind, just another ad-yard?" Or is it leading us in an entirely new direction that we are just beginning to realize?

As for what direction that might be, Stefan Kolle from Futurelab describes it pretty well in his "ideal" (although he does not necessarily attribute it to internet):
"...a world without the need for advertising. A world where products and services are based on true customer insights and executed in perfection. A world where both customers and employees are so satisfied, motivated, enabled and empowered to spread the gospel that brands don’t have to be an annoyance anymore."

Admittedly, the first time I read it I could not help reacting with skepticism. We have been living with brands and ads for so long that it is really hard to imagine a world without them. Hard but not impossible. Especially when you realize that it is beginning to happen; slowly maybe but it is happening.

The power of pull
If you are sick of me referring to the Mount&Blade example again and again, check out from Dell computers. It is a site created specifically for direct communication with the customer. Customers can post ideas and feedback on the site about the products, and other users can promote or demote those ideas. The higher the popularity of the idea, the higher the priority it gets on Dell's list of things to do. Does it sound familiar? It is that dialogue again, between designer and customer, the ultimate disintermediation. It is an early version of a utopia where customers get exactly what they want, and manufacturers know what they should produce.

Now back to Part I: Why push yourself, or your product, or your service on people who don't need them when you can easily find those that do? When they can find you and tell you exactly what they want?

We have nothing to lose but our ads
At the core of the socialist philosophy is the idea that it should be the working class who seizes and owns the means to production. The critical flaw in that ideology (which eventually led to its tragedies) was that nobody questioned how meaningful the production was: i.e. producing widgets endlessly when people were starving.

The Internet has potential to empower the individual (both as a producer and a consumer) in a way that the socialism of old could never imagine to do. It is the means to production, to distribution, to research and development, but the best of all, it is the means to validation (which has always happened to be the strongest argument for free markets of capitalism against state controlled markets of socialism: traffic signals of a healthy economy).

In that regard, what we see might just be the paving of the way to an economic ideology never seen before. Internet is the revolution.

(To be continued in Part III: "But how does this all apply to games?" A brilliant climax - TK Times. Don't miss it!)

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