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The Free Beer Economy

Mar 12, 2009, 19:04 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Doc Searls)

"The Internet itself could hardly be more widely used yet less well-understood. Here we have a form of infrastructure that embodies both free-as-in-freedom and free-as-in-beer, that has much in common with the purely public goods we call gravity, sunlight and atmosphere, and is still seen by those who bill us for it as a valved "service", on par with call waiting and premium TV channels.

"Way back in the Web's Paleozoic, I wrote my first piece for Linux Journal (actually for its short-lived sister/insert, WEBsmith). It was titled "A Bulldozer Through The Intersection". The title played off a Newt Gingrich line: "The key to a monopoly is to get in the middle of an intersection and charge rent." Today no sentiment could hardly be more Old Skool. Yet the New Skool is barely in session. Urges to valve abundance and package it as scarcities still run strong. In some cases this makes sense. It really does cost money, for example, to connect homes and businesses to the Net's backbones, and ways must be found to pay for that. (Not saying the carriers have found the right ways, just that they have capex and opex, both of which need to be covered, somehow.) In other cases, such as with free and open source software, no "business model" is required. Yet the absence of one is still hard for many to grok."

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