The Internet

In Archives, Uncategorized on February 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm

In the process of making a short video, I recently discovered that my Windows Movie Maker software won’t open QuickTime movies (which are associated with Microsoft’s hipster rival, Apple). After twenty minutes of searching online, I had found “VideoPad Video Editor,” a free video editing program with all the basic features I needed, and support for QuickTime files. This experience made me reflect again on the incredible value of the internet, and on how that value has been almost entirely captured by consumers.

Online services are incaculably valuable: some, such as Facebook, have almost reached the status of municipal utilities. And yet the providers of most of those services continue to be completely unable to charge us for them, except indirectly through advertising. Even that can be a hard sell: ever since YouTube began tacking ads to the beginning of its videos, there have been mutinous user comments about how the service “should” remain completely unpolluted by advertising. Never mind that YouTube was built and is maintained by large outlays of cash—unlike, say, a pristine mountain lake.

The economic explanation for this state of affairs, I suppose, is that competitors face almost no obstacles in duplicating successful online services, and consumers usually face almost no switching costs. But I’m also interested in the social dimension: our feeling of entitlement, the comfort with which we demand the internet’s previously unimagined miracles for free. As someone preparing to begin earning money, rather than just spending it, I’m a little scared to see how accustomed consumers can become to getting something for nothing.

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