Is Value On the Internet Created by 1) Free Behavior of Users or 2) Profit-Oriented Professional Players?

In 2006, web skeptic Nicolas G. Carr made a wager with Harvard professor and networking theorist Yochai Benkler.

Benkler had just written a book, The Wealth of Networks, which argued that the internet was allowing individuals to come together in ways that had economic value — including content creation — without the requirement for traditional pricing systems or managerial structures.

Web skeptic Nick Carr argued that commerce on the internet would evolve away from peer relationships and toward corporate structures. In other words, profit-oriented professional players would take over.

In 2006 Carr made a bet with Benkler, which had no monetary value, that by 2011 his vision of the web would have prevailed.

In a fascinating May 9th, 2012 article for Gigaom, Mathew Ingram looks at the evidence and concludes that "Benkler has clearly won:"

"While there are large corporate entities with profit-oriented motives involved in the web, a group that includes Facebook and Twitter, the bulk of the value that is produced in those networks and services comes from the free behavior of crowds of users. Yes, all of the companies involved in those networks and services are trying hard to monetize that value, but it doesn’t come from charging them directly — and very little of what is produced comes in return for a salary, which was a key part of Carr’s argument."

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