“To find something comparable, you have to go back 500 years to the printing press and the birth of mass media … Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s people who are taking control.”
( Rupert Murdoch, quoted in Wired, July 2006)
Today, the software community pioneers the changes arising in our society in the passage from industrial to informational economy. Open source points the way to innovations arising from the shift from financial to knowledge-based capital. Owners of human and intellectual capital are growing in power as financiers did in post-industrial era. Talent and knowledge are capital goods that represent productive capacity characterized by unique features that do not fit our established management models for financial and physical capital. In our current economic evolution, the industrial plate is diving beneath the new information landmass where Internet plays the role of the major catalyst. Industrial economy knowledge monopolies are breaking down rapidly and G8 countries can no longer expect to monopolize advanced scientific research. Meanwhile the concept of intellectual property (IP) is being reinvented in the information age and the most evident clues of it can be found in the world of open source software with its emerging models for distributing and licensing know-how. At present, having largely mastered the productive challenges of our physical environment, we find ourselves confronting the opportunities of the cerebral environment, an increasingly virtual world of knowledge, media and entertainment; a world, girdled by information involving billions of connected individuals; a world where anyone can plug-and-play and where collaboration between diverse entities is the modus operandi of the day: this is the world of “wikinomics”. The future therefore lies in collaboration across borders, cultures, companies and disciplines as Internet provides a global infrastructure for creativity, participation, sharing, and self-organization. Peer production is emerging as an alternative model of production that can harness human skill, ingenuity and intelligence more efficiently and effectively than traditional hierarchical firms. Treating this emerging phenomenon as a curiosity or transient fad is a mistake, instead it unveils a new mode of production which takes innovation and wealth creation to new levels. 2006 was the year when the programmable Web (i.e. Web 2.0) eclipsed the static Web (i.e. Web 1.0) every time. Flickr beats Webshots; Wikipedia beats Britannica and Myspace beats Friendster. What was the difference? Web 1.0 launched Web sites, while Web 2.0 launched vibrant communities. The former built walled gardens. The latter built public squares. The former innovated internally. The latter innovated with their users. Still, the former jealously guarded their data and software interfaces. The latter shared them with everyone.
Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying it could fail, but unveils an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. The ability to pool the knowledge of million users in a self-organizing fashion demonstrates how mass collaboration is turning the web into something not completely different from a global brain. In the collaboration economy, the real advantage of global sourcing is the endless possibilities for growth, innovation and diversity. Meanwhile, the deepening process of globalization will heighten the need for b-web leaders to act globally.