Most obviously, there is a loss of control or a change in control from the business to its customers, to its markets, even to its employees. And that is an important way of thinking about it; I think it’s central. But there is another way of putting this, which is that this has happened to a large degree because we –your customers, your market, your employees-, we like each other more than we like you, or at least your business. We like hanging out together, we’re having fun, we’re talking with one another, we’re rushing to engage with one another about everything, including about your products, and your services, and your business, and your customer support and all that. We like being with one another; we’re doing it voluntarily. This seems to me to be actually quite central.
In the world of the old media -broadcast media in various forms, one too many- the very nature of the medium required the broadcaster to try to anticipate what our interests were and if you’re a business using these media, you’d try to use the medium in order to enforce and reinforce a set of interests you have across a wide, mass audience. That’s how it worked. Business overall for a while has actually been in a conflict of interest with its users way too often, even when the users really liked the business’s products and services, which happens all the time. Nevertheless the customers’ interest is in those products and services and the business sure has an interest there, but it also has an interest in making money out of those, and that is not a shared interest with the customers, even though there is of course some overlap. That’s just the way that it is.
In the new medium -the internet, or more specifically the web- the web is composed, quite literally made out of links and every link expresses a human interest. I link to you because I’m so interested in what you’re saying that I want to put in a magic bridge or ‘click and you go’ to let my readers go away from my page and go to yours. The trillions of links that make up the web, that are its constituent parts: no links, no web. Each of those links expresses a real human interest. So now we have a medium that is a genuine reflection of what we as humans care about, of what we find interesting. You take a business that is, first of all, hierarchically controlled, which is a bad fit for a network but nevertheless you try to get this onto the network, into the network because that’s where your customers are, and businesses tend to come in with their own interest whereas customers are there because of their own most genuine interest. And this is a very real difference. It’s a real change in the environment now that the dominant medium is one that is composed of and it’s a relatively pure expression of genuine, human customer interest. And in that environment businesses all too often can look like intruders. The shift in the dynamic of interest seems to me to be very fundamental.