A recurring theme for me is the difficulty of keeping markets “open,” in the sense of empowering customers and users with information and choice, while still permitting businesses to grow and innovate.
This concern underlies my interest in distributive justice, limiting copyright and patent monopolies, open-source software and open-access publishing. I try not to fall too far to one side of the debate, but rather am a proponent of a balanced approach to these issues so that the “free market” can function effectively to grow GDP while protecting human rights, ethical values, and so on.
Chris Messina hits on this theme in The open, social web:
For me, openness is about freedom of choice and unfettered access to compete in an open marketplace. To that end, you still must protect against monopolistic threats, which can jeopardize entry to markets and therefore require regulation.
In the posting, he brings in some economic concepts from Beril Hatt’s Ph.D. work that, he believes, are necessary to “defeat monopolies in social networks and cloud-based markets”:
- data portability: related to switching costs; an example of this is phone number portability (which require government intervention to achieve)
- multi-homing: increasing reliability through parallelization; the example I used was ping.fm, which allows you to publish content simultaneously to multiple destinations, thereby defeating network exclusivity and lock-in
- roaming: have access to and using other people’s networks; I showed a text message that I received from AT&T explaining how they wanted to charge me $20/MB while roaming in Europe. Clearly networks don’t like it when their customers roam!
- disaggregation: service substitutability; in this case the photo-editing service Picnik imports photos from a multitude of sources, avoiding tightly coupling itself an any one particular service, unlike Facebook’s photo-sharing service, which can only be used and accessed on facebook.com.