Wednesday, 22 May 2013

internet business model Part 1.1; in the beginning: history, culture, characteristics, operating system, rules

‘In less than five years, has built a membership four times that of Amnesty International’ - Time magazine

As we know, the internet was a network designed to withstand nuclear attacks.  What many of us may not know is that this directive and the early working culture laid the foundations of the {mechanics} character of the internet.  To withstand attacks, the network has to be highly decentralised with no single command centre.  This was the reason many detractors in the early days predicted that the internet was a passing fad!  I think some still do!  They could not comprehend how a control-command system the world is so used to can work in a system that is diametrically opposite.  This is absolutely fundamental in how the culture was created, the base with which to understand the internal workings of an internet economy.

Back to the early event.  The internet as is now common knowledge was the creation of the US military research agency DARPA.  Internet projects that came out of it also carried with it an RFC.  This ‘Request For Comments’ was circulated to members made up of universities, institutions and related commercial companies, to comment upon the design if anybody wanted to.  Again, the concept of commenting was not new and is akin to the peer process for paper publication by academics but here the developments were not academic papers but projects, designing all aspects of the internet.  This was unique.  Then if you were doing a design, you would not want to let others in on it and even academically, it is discussed only when it is in or near its final form so that ownership of the idea was clearly established to a person or the organisation.  But many wanted to, they were contributing their time and brains voluntarily.  This early manner of the RFC sowed the seed of volunteerism.   It is the basis for the success of Wikipedia, Yahoo, YouTube, Quora and many more as they translated volunteerism into a business model.  One cannot crowdsource without volunteers.  This wasn’t the only thing the DARPA process inspired; there was the culture of openness and sharing.

A local (Singapore) example.  IT operations do not normally allow students to come in and tinker so I do not know why but that’s exactly what happened in Technet (Pacific Internet and now part of Pacnet) where I was the head, then a unit within the National University of Singapore’s Computer Centre.  Students including an ‘O’ level student, undergraduate and lecturers came in whenever they wanted, often staying till late.  Outsiders included.  They were not paid but they did help with the operations in some way developing utilities (small pieces of software that automate a computer activity for example), assisting users and such.  They were encouraged to tinker on their own ideas.  Perhaps I was simply breathing the ‘open’ culture and just went along with it.  A global innovation actually came out of this but more of this later

 The next post raises a core element of the internet’s operating system (how it operates), ‘openness’, a common culture across the iconic internet companies.

©Chen Thet Ngian, (2012, 2013).  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chen Thet Ngian and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.