Regulations will slow down Internet Economy Growth

adam smith like
Adam Smith would have “liked” the Internet Economy

Adam Smith published his famous book “The Wealth of Nations” (full title “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”) in 1776. Among others he observed what he called “The Invisible Hand” that helps society develop. Smith argued that even though economic players are pursuing their own interests they have to trade with others and thus balance and overall growth is achieved.

Smith believed those in power can’t be expected to treat public goods as their own. Overspending, bad management, corruption are bound to appear when governments achieve enough power. The author believed government power should be limited, markets should be free and self interest is the key to economic development. These requirements, however, have to work together. Otherwise the system can’t work. Self interest will drive those in the upper economic echelon into lobby groups, where they will ask and “purchase” favors from those that instill law and order. Such actions will hurt smaller economic players and increase wealth gap. In time the wealth gap will grow exponentially up to a moment society will have to restructure itself and as history taught us these kind of changes aren’t usually peaceful.

The global economy is far from free, government power is anything but limited and economic actions based on self interest are reserved for a select few.

Internet – the (almost) perfect market

Internet has proven that it is the closest thing we have to what Adam Smith described as a perfect market. It’s self regulated, markets are (mostly) free, governments can’t really control it and most of the economic players act in their self interest. Some people don’t like that.

In the Internet Economy consumers dictate the rise and fall of the economic agents. With the rise in Social Media the consumer influence increases ever more. However – it seems that recent events confirm Smith’s thoughts:

“People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or some contrivance to raise prices.”

Think about SOPA, ACTA, and other such. The Internet has to stay as deregulated as possible if we expect it to continue its growth.

Internet Economy to reach $4.2 trillion by 2016. 5 reasons this figure is an understatement.

In a report made public earlier this year Boston Consulting Group stated that the Internet Economy in G20 countries is expected to reach $4.2 trillion by 2016. The company also expects the number of internet connected users to reach 3 billion (just for the record – there are now approximately 2.2 billion).

At first sight this might seem like a huge figure but I believe that the company understated the importance and potential growth of the internet economy. Yes, I believe $4.2 trillion is an understatement. Why?

1. $4.2 trillion means less than 7 times Apple’s market cap. Yes, Apple might be the largest company ever, in terms of market capitalization but it’s just one company and it means the combined brain and sales power of less than 50.000 employees.

2. The internet economy is still in its infancy. We have just began discovering viable business models that work on the Internet. Companies such as Apple, Google or Amazon innovated and improved on existing business models but are yet to reach their full potential. Amazon for example, has launched its first Kindle device 5 years ago. After half a decade its customers are buying more ebooks than printed editions. This kind of growth could not be expected or planed.

3. We do not have the economic models to understand Internet’s impact. Most of our economy is based on theories that were thought of and published in a time the concept of Internet was closer to science-fiction than academic research. More recent economic theories such as the behavioral economics approach are closer to reality and better at predicting the evolution of the internet economy.

4. The report understates the economic importance and impact of mobile internet. Fixed lines have helped us reach a 32% internet penetration. Mobile connections exceed in many developed and developing countries 100%. Smartphones and internet connected devices will replace older mobile devices. In less than 10 years I expect Internet penetration to reach past 70%. With such a high adoption rate Internet Economy is bound to exceed greatly the $4.2 trillion figure.

5. The figures are probably based on current growth and vastly underestimate innovation. Innovation is the key factor in understanding internet economy growth. The large ecosystem comprised of entrepreneurs, investment funds and talented engineers has taken the world by storm for the past 20 years. Ever since the dot com bubble this ecosystem has had its fair share of skepticism that is still deeply embedded in the economic world. Year after year pundits are proven wrong by this ever increasing sector. Innovation can’t be planned or measured very well for now but it is there and companies that foster innovation manage to increase their market share.

The internet economy has already surpassed in some of the G20 countries some very heavy economy sectors such as energy, agriculture or automotive. This trend will continue. By 2016 industries that have not been surpassed by the Internet will be the exception, not the rule.

Can Social Media Influence be used as a factor in HR recruiting?

Recently Salesforce.com posted a job regarding a position as a Community Manager. Among others the company asked for a Klout score of at least 35. For those not in the know Klout is one of the front runners in the social media influence analytics. It features 19 social networks users can choose depending on where they believe their most influential actions come from.

salesforce.com recruits community manager
Salesforce.com’s Community Manager position drew a lot of attention

After the position showed up bloggers started discussing the possibility that in the future such a score might be used on a wider scale in HR recruiting.

Just like education, previous experience and maybe hobbies, should we expect such an influence score to become a widespread requirement in job applications? Probably not.

Although building sustainable social networks (in the real world) can mean a greater influence, a higher life standard and probably a happier life, online social networks are not (usually) real social networks. Social media can go so far and potential employees should not be judged on this type of score.

Think of a bank CEO. He probably does not have a really wide social network. But the small network he is active in, although usually not very popular, can be really influential in the real world and his actions and decisions highly disruptive. This might also be applied to scientists, lawyers, inventors and many other jobs that don’t need thousands of friends to be highly successful in their everyday lives.

Social media influence should be a requirement only with social media jobs. Maybe not even there. 

Amazon sells more ebooks than paperback and hardcover books. How come?

Amazon is already selling more ebooks then we might expect. For every 100 paperback and hardcover books, Amazon delivers 114 ebooks to its readers in UK. The fact is astonishing as this is sure to trigger the same long-term effect as iTunes had: it will change the publishing industry just like iTunes changed the music industry.

kindle dx
The Kindle DX

Change happened gradually. Legend has it Jeff Bezos saw the eInk readers and understood that such a device might be, in the wrong hands, Amazon’s arch-nemesis. In 2004 he order 30 eInk readers and asked Steve Kessel to setup a research facility for a future switch to ebook publishing.

In 2007 the team at Lab 126, Amazon’s subsidiary in charge of Kindle’s R&D, launched the first product. It was a big hit. Users could choose from 88 000 books, which was way above any other competitor in the ebook reader market.

The elements involved in Kindle’s success are invisible when we look at the product. The sleek design, the beautiful typography or the eInk technology are not enough to understand the ecosystem that lead to Amazon’s results. Let’s have a look at some key factors involved in Kindle’s adoption and evolution:

1. The existing clients: When Amazon launched the Kindle it already had more than 65 million customers. Even at a low adoption rate Amazon would have had the greatest chance to succeed selling ebooks.

2. The large selection of electronic books: The 88 000 books available at launch were more than any of the competition had to offer its readers. 5 years after the first generation Kindle Amazon has extended its ebook offering largely.

3. Impulse buying: In 1999 the US Trademark Office issued a patent to Amazon.com regarding 1 Click buying. By using previously entered credit card information the user can skip the shopping cart hassle and purchase any item with the click of a button. This patent was never awarded in Europe but Amazon created a impulse-buying consumer behavior that lead, in time, to the success Kindle is right now. By using this technology Amazon makes sure that consumers don’t think too much about purchasing. They just do it. Psychologically this resolves the so called “buyer’s remorse”.

4. Instant delivery through Wi-Fi and the Whispernet 3G network: one of the greatest things about the Kindle is the fact that you don’t have to wait until it’s shipped. The books are being delivered anywhere in the world instantly. The Whispernet network is nothing short of genius and its benefits in customer satisfaction greatly exceed the costs.

5. Syncing: the current lifestyle of many of Amazon’s customers doesn’t allow them to read to peacefully enjoy reading a book for more than an hour at a time. Our attention span has greatly decreased as modern jobs leave little time for personal development. Kindle is available as a standalone application on the PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad etc. Basically we can read our book wherever we are, whenever we can. Using internet connection the books are synced cross device and readers can enjoy books whenever they can.

6. Evolution of indie publishing: The Kindle allowed many indie authors to self publish their books. As these authors entered a market they couldn’t previously tap into prices have dropped and the book selection has increased. It’s not yet clear whether buyers are reading or just collecting the books. However – they pay for them and that means a shift in spending that will lead to further changes in book publishing.

The 6 facts above are the things we don’t usually see when looking at the Kindle but they are very important. One cannot try to understand Kindle’s success without understanding the ecosystem Amazon has built to support ebook sales.

In 2011 Amazon launched its Android powered Kindle Fire. This year the company is generating 89% of iTunes App Store revenues selling Android Apps. Read more on the subject here.

5 consequences of the Apple vs. Samsung trial

In a historic decision the San Jose, California courtroom ruled that Samsung did infringe in some of Apple’s patents. The court ordered Samsung to pay over $1 billion in damages for patent infringement.

Steve Jobs wanted to go thermonuclear on Android. Image source: SiliconAngle.com
The court ruled that Samsung did, at times willfully, infringe on some of Apple’s iOS patents: the bounce back on lists, pinch to zoom etc. As a post-trial response Samsung announced it will fight this decision and that the court ruling affects the consumers.

In a historic decision the San Jose, California courtroom ruled that Samsung did infringe in some of Apple’s patents. The court ordered Samsung to pay over $1 billion in damages for patent infringement.

steve jobs thermonuclear android
Steve Jobs wanted to go thermonuclear on Android. Image source: SiliconAngle.com

The court ruled that Samsung did, at times willfully, infringe on some of Apple’s iOS patents: the bounce back on lists, pinch to zoom etc. As a post-trial response Samsung announced it will fight this decision and that the court ruling affects the consumers.

While it’s pretty obvious that Samsung borrowed, to say the least, some of Apple’s hardware and software design and interface elements the decision is clearly going to have negative consequences on the mobile phones and mobile applications market.

The court ruling changes everything. Again.

1. Apple will continue its growth, having secured its proprietary hardware and software design – Apple is already the biggest company ever, in terms of market valuation. After Steve Jobs’ demise many wondered if the company will continue to grow. It did. This year saw the rise of incumbent Android based mobile devices which were growing at a faster rate than iOS based ones (Android is the dominant mobile OS in the US) and threatening Apple’s hegemony. Samsung was the biggest challenger in terms of hardware development. Having taken a massive shot at the opposition Apple can continue focusing on innovation and expanding its market share.

2. The mobile market will suffer from this decision. Samsung is one of the biggest competitors to Apple. As the smartphone market is ever increasing Apple just made a very large step to a de facto monopoly on this market. While they couldn’t do that by economic means, they showed they can do it through legal arguments. The decision to punish Samsung on adopting the interaction methods Apple “invented” is like ruling that only one PC manufacturer can ship PC’s that use keyboards and mice for user-to-computer interaction.

3. The target is not Samsung. It’s Android. Apple doesn’t care that much about the fact that Samsung has copied its products. It was just the easiest target. Otherwise they could have just sued every other smartphone manufacturer – it’s easy to see that the iPhone shifted the entire mobile industry to a different direction. One that Apple holds patents on. What Apple is really worried though is the Android OS. It’s popular, reliable and it is growing way faster than the iOS. Of course Apple still rules the market in terms of revenue but not for long. Amazon is already generating 89% of Apple’s App Store Revenue through its own Android store. This leads us to…

4. Everyone sees the jury decision as Microsoft’s chance to shine. But it’s Amazon that will benefit most. Microsoft can try and try to reinvent themselves. They won’t. It’s a corporate dinosaur that lacks innovation and courage. You know who  does have those things, plus a ton of cash? Amazon. Amazon has had an amazing trajectory the past 5 years having reinvented reading with Kindle and now challenging Apple’s reign in the mobile app area. They are closing in to Apple in terms of mobile – generated transactions. With Samsung out of the picture they will be able to lead the Android revolution.

5. Apple’s actions might backfire. Remember the days when Microsoft ruled the IT world with a iron fist? The were used to buy smaller competitors, drive them out of business or sue them out of the game. It didn’t work so well after all. Right now people are buying Apple products because they love the brand. If the brand shows its money hungry face, the feelings towards the brand might be affected and turn into decreased revenues and company valuation. After all – the market is all about perception.

In my opinion the Apple – Samsung dispute should be resolved by the markets and the consumers, not in a courtroom. It is a dangerous precedent that harms an young and fast-growing industry. Patents or no patents there are millions of Samsung users that will suffer from this decision.

Mobile gaming trends

Smartphones are taking the world by storm. They appear to be the fastest growing technology we have ever seen. They slowly grew to a 10% adoption rate and then something changed everything: Apple launched the iPhone. 2 years later the adoption rate reached 40% in the US. Right now nearly half the adults in the US own a smartphone.

Tablets are not doing too bad either: 1 in 4 smartphone owners owns a tablet. The tablet market is expected to reach a 40% adoption rate in the US by 2016.

Mobile app stores

Apple pioneered a new way  of looking at software distribution that has deep roots in Steve Jobs’ vision of “connected consumer”. With the launch of the App Store, Apple triggered a behavior based on instant software delivery and micro payments. The great thing about the system is the seamless integration between the devices and the central market. Payments are easy to make, software installation does not require any advanced IT skills and the iOS makes it easy to operate apps.

revenue from app stores
Apple leads the way. Amazon follows closely.

Apple app store market was a huge success. It now features more than 500 000 apps, 66% of which are paid. This apps generated over $3.4 billion revenues Apple paid to its developers. Google Play, the Android app store, paid “only” $240 million.

Google Play is actually not the biggest retailer of Android applications. The main challenger to Apple’s reign seems to be the Amazon App Store. According to mobile analytics company Flurry, Amazon generates 89% of iTunes App Store’s revenue.

Mobile Gaming is on the rise

Angry birds space
A sequel to the popular Angry Birds is expected this year

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Jack decided he would play a game on his smartphone and now the mobile gaming industry is expected to generate $7.5 billion dollars in revenues by 2015.

Established game developers such as EA, Gameloft, Ubisoft, talented new comers such as Zynga and Konami and independent game studios jumped the wagon. They had to learn the new rules and understand the mobile users behavior as the mobile gaming industry is a new breed, where concepts such as social gaming, micro payments and in-app purchase matter. The fast growing user base expects new releases, awesome graphics, multiplayer support and the gaming companies serve them well after a few past flops.

Freemium games

The top grossing games share a common feature. They’re freemium. That means they’re free to install and play and generate revenue from in-app purchases. I have discussed the model in the “Social Gaming Architecture” article but let’s go over the basics again:

  • users are free to install and play the game
  • they get incentives to help them understand and start playing the game on a daily basis
  • as the time passes the games are harder to play and game gratification is harder to obtain
  • by buying in-game upgrades the users can get upgrades, virtual coins etc.

The future of mobile gaming

We should expect mobile gaming to become mainstream. With better connectivity between tablets, smartphones and TV’s we will probably see a decline in gaming consoles popularity and sales.

Because the cost of entry in such a market is rather low for now the market will see new challengers to established gaming companies. Rovio was acquired by EA after the highly popular Angry Birds game went mainstream but Rovio is just one of the many studios just trying to get into the market. I expect mobile gaming, just like social gaming was, to have a disruptive effect on the overall gaming industry.

Facebook money is not real money. Yet.

The dollar
Like ?

First off –  a little introduction on money. When you think of money, what do you see? I bet you picture some coins, maybe banknotes, possibly your credit card. Think about this: in 2011 cash (the things we physically picture as money) in the US accounted for under 16% of money currently available (broad money).

As debit card and credit card adoption increases, as eCommerce grows more and more, the need for “narrow money” (coins, banknotes etc.) decreases. Most of our money exists just as bits of information in the financial system. I presume that in the future most of the currencies will disappear as we’ll move toward a more globalized approach to money, a world with one single currency. We do have a world bank, we have an international monetary fund – we will have an international currency.

We will strip money out of all their symbolic value and give them just one purpose: to enhance human collaboration and trade.

We accept and trust the financial system, not money per se

What we need is a world-wide acceptance of a certain currency, the universal ability to use that currency and a integration with the legacy financial system.

Call me crazy but I believe Facebook credits, the monetary system Facebook imposed on game developers could one day do that. If you think about it it’s not the currency we have to accept. It’s the system that’s issuing it. We trust Facebook with our personal data, our likes and dislikes, to some extent our social life. We could one day trust it with our money.

One might be skeptic about the idea of a Facebook – ran monetary system. However, Facebook is dominating the internet in terms of share of time and number of users.  The Internet is dominating human communication and in the future – trade. It is a matter of time until the electronic currency will shift toward a more Internet – oriented form.

If so, maybe George Soros was not wrong to buy Facebook stocks.

Social gaming architecture

“Your friend sent you a request” says my Facebook notification. That must mean one of my Facebook friends is playing one of Zynga’s or Konami’s social games. You know the type – manage a farm, a city or something close to that. You’ve finished building a windmill – what an achievement –  share it with your friends. Need your crops faster – oh, no – share it with your friends.

Zynga’s top brand: Farmville

These type of games, however annoying are highly addictive (at least for a moderately short period of time), highly viral and for a while they seemed to be the grim future of the gaming industry. After a fast growth period Zynga reported a loss of $400 million dollars in 2011. Not because of how bad its games were doing (Zynga owns 2011 top 5 most played games on Facebook and its revenues were $1.14 billion dollars). No, they payed “stock-based compensation expense for restricted stock units issued to employees”.  $510 million dollars in stock-based compensation it did not had to pay until it went public.

However bleak Zynga’s future might look they still own some of the most popular social games and they started to adapt to the rising trend of mobile-based gaming (tablets and smartphones).

Its main competitor, Konami, is not doing too bad, either. Actually Konami’s social gaming division reported a 77% increase in revenue. Given the sharp rise in Zynga’s and Konami’s revenue we can see clearly that social gaming is a great investment . What makes it so?

Social gaming is highly addictive

Social gaming makes use of some incentive design based on social activity and achievements. Social gaming companies use human psychology to create levels of addiction close to gambling and these games usually have slow learning curve, use many motivators to commit users to revisit the game (plant a crop, come back after 10 hours to use it) and use instant gratification to convince users to purchase upgrades.

Behavior economics in social gaming

Interestingly, most of behavior economics principles can be found in these type of games: from peer pressure to “doing the right thing” (don’t let your crops die) and clearly seeing the outcome of one’s action – all add up to a picture where behavior economics seem to be the baseline for virtual economic architecture in games such as Farmville.

The virtual life in social games

Collectible real-life World of Warcraft coins

Reality perception is altered when such games are played and playing the game seems to be more of a daily task then entertainment. To understand the high interest users have in this type of gaming we must remember that in our day to day life few things seem to add up like the virtual life in social games does. Click a button – start building a farm. Click another – plant crops. Come back after a day and you can cash in your hard earned coins that you can reinvest. It is a little harder to do that in real life. Sometimes – no matter how hard we try achievements don’t seem to pup-up.

We expect an end to our actions. If possible a fortunate one. We have been planting crops and harvesting them for thousands of years. Our bed time stories always have an end. The movies we watch program us to expect an introduction, action and the grand finally. Our lives don’t usually have that and this is one of the causes of modern stress and depression. Having a secondary life where everything is simpler and more colorful is a reward in itself.

The architecture of social gaming

Most social games have a pretty simple story that gets you hooked. The first form of profitable social games were the MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) where you played a character and took possession of his actions. Other players would join in and you would search for coins, artifacts and battle different monsters or other players.

What are the lowest common denominators of most successful social games?

1. The story – as we are used to stories from infancy we best deal with adopting a new concept if we receive it in a story. Weather you are living in a future where aliens are threatening to take over the universe, a village where your survival depends on how well you manage your farm or a fantasy world where elves and trolls are trying to get you – you need a story. Without a story no game-addiction can develop, there is no understanding of one’s actions and the game flops.

2. The setting – the environment is really important as that is the context for the players actions. If you are in a farm you don’t usually battle star ships. There is no need for extra mana to cast a spell and there are, usually, no monsters you have to slay.

3. The character – people play games to foster their imagination and to escape the usual reality. That’s the same reason we watch movies – we need alternate realities where we can embody some other character.

4. The economy – whether players are searching for extra stamina bottles, artifacts, coins or other incentives they do that because they understand the need for an alternate economy. Economics are so well embedded in us that social games that have no economic notion can never become mainstream.

5. The limitations – social games have to have limitations. Without limitations there are no achievements. Without achievements there is no psychological  gratification. No limits – no endorphin.

6. The incentives – what makes users tick? Incentives. Search for an artifact and you can defend your castle. Develop more farms and you can buy more land. Upgrade your ship and you can win the battle you previously lost. Incentives makes people act. Just as the real world economics incentives are the carrot that works better than the stick.

7. The social features – imagine playing tag by yourself. It isn’t too fun, is it? We are deeply social animals and everything we do is based on how other people react to our actions. Social gaming evolved so fast that it makes it so easy for users to attract peers and develop common interests.

What social gaming lacks right now?

Most of what we now call social games have developed strong social ties, a great system of incentives, some kind of limitations, some kind of game economics but they lack the story and characters. It’s not all about the graphics. The user has to understand the back story and understand who is he in the game. Just like our real lives the most important things about how we relate to the world are the things that shaped us, who we are and who will we become.

Zynga’s social games lack the story and the characters which is not much of a problem right now but people will get bored with the shiny incentives and peer pressure. For a long term user retention social games need to develop personas and epic stories.

Thomas Metzinger, a German philosopher, stated in “The Ego Tunnel” that we understand reality through a scaled down replica of the reality surrounding us. He based his research on neurological research, human psychology studies and artificial intelligence tests. Why is that important for social gaming? If users are not fully immersed in the gaming reality – they can easily abandon games. The game world is not really a personal perception of reality. Social games are shifting the perception of what is real and what is not but only for a limited time.

In the future I expect social games to develop the social gaming worlds to an alternate reality and developing characters. It’s happening right now with World of Warcraft. There are 10.2 million paying subscribers, fully immersed in the story and characters Blizzard created.

Bonus takeaway

In 2010 we wrote a study on Facebook Gaming. Most of the assumptions and predictions turned out to be right. Here is Gaming on Facebook .

Part two of this article will come soon and will focus on the economics of social gaming.

 

Does internet help education?

“The printing press helped education”. It’s pretty hard to argue with that. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press he had a simple idea in his mind: to help more people read the Bible. Also – make some money out of it (Gutenberg was a goldsmith so we might assume he had some economic motivations).

The printing press helped Europe escape the Dark Ages

 

The printing press

Back then The Church held a monopoly on Bible printing and distribution. Most of the Bibles were hand written in Latin and it was frowned upon, to say the least, to translate or own one. There were few people able to read, let alone read Latin, so the Church held the absolute truth as priests were able to interpret the Bible in any way they found it appropriate.

Johannes Gutenberg changes all that in 1440 with his invention of the printing press. He is credited with having printed the world’s first movable type book, a 42 line Bible.

The context was favorable as Europe was seeing a post-medieval rise in learning, the early notions of capitalism appeared and manifested themselves through a high interest in product efficiency. In just a few decades the printing press spread throughout Europe. This is not as impressive now as we take book publishing  and distribution for granted, we read our books on tablets or the Kindle but back then it was unheard of any technology to spread that fast. In under 4 centuries the book printing output rose from one million to over one billion books.

Soon people began printing more than Bibles. Authorship actually started meaning something. Back when the printing press did not exist the author was not really important. A copy of Platon’s Republic in Paris may have been entirely different from the one in London. Authors where sometimes unknown and most didn’t find any interested in writing something that brought no profit or recognition in return.

The sciences blossomed as people were able to exchange ideas in writing. The arts started blossoming as literature was finding its way to the masses. The first newspaper was printed in 1620, almost 200 years after the invention of the printing press. Illiteracy dropped as educational means were now available and the life quality increased.

We may never know how important the printing press actually was to the evolution of mankind but  we can guess that were it not for the printing press we might still be living in the dark ages.

There was a time when we didn’t have internet access

Imagine the world without internet. It’s pretty hard to do that now as you have probably spent at least an hour today sending and receiving emails, using Google, shopping online or reading the news on your favorite news portal. If you are older than 25 you might remember a time when the Internet was something closer to science-fiction than everyday utility. There was a time when you actually had to wait more then a few days to send a letter to someone across the globe.

How did the Internet came to be?

ARPANET

Back in 1950 a point to point computer communication between mainframe computers and terminals was developed. A decade later this led to the development of several networks and in 1970 one of these networks, the ARPANET, a military developed network, developed the concept of internetworking, basically a network of network. 1982 saw the implementation of TCP/IP, a protocol to allow interconnection. A few years later ARPANET was decommissioned and in 1995 the internet was commercialized.

Bam! Everything exploded! Well – not actually. At that young age the internet was still mainly used for scientific purposes and information exchange.

Soon, though, people started experimenting with email systems, eCommerce, self-publishing, and others such.

A big breakthrough in research and education were the search engines. Before Google there was Altavista and Yahoo. Yahoo was actually a web directory that helped users find websites based on interests. The development of Google meant people didn’t need to browse for hours to find what they were looking for (we might remember the days when a 64kbs dial-up connection was considered a luxury).

The internet and education.

Altavista

Now we can find almost any kind of information online. The search engines crawl billions of webpages on a daily basis, everyone with an access to a computer and  internet can easily publish an article and Amazon is already selling more instant-delivery eBooks everywhere in the world.

Some of the most important universities in the world now have free access to online courses. Have a look at this list to get a glimpse into how much information is available to anyone willing to spend the time to learn.

As  mobile internet consumption rises new education approaches emerge. Apple launched iTunes U, a collection of higher education courses in audio or readable format.  Hard to reach populations are actively taught through mobile internet connections.

Some of the most prestigious universities in the world have online courses that offer a degree with lower education costs for those in less economically stable areas.

The Wikipedia

Yes, “THE” Wikipedia is probably the greatest education feat in the human history. Human knowledge is now accessible for free to those that want to learn more, understand more. It features more than 4 million English articles and is available in 278 languages.

Wikipedia drove the paid print version of Encyclopedia Britannica to extinction as generous article contributors have made Wikipedia the go-to place for fast research.

Internet has changed many things for the better but education is the field that changed most. Never in our history has so much information been available to so many. I believe in a future where individuals are empowered, informed, educated. Internet has mad that possible as education and information became publicly available.

 

Is Facebook moral?

Many things have been said about Facebook. With more than 900 million users Facebook is changing the way we communicate. People share their thoughts, photos and stay connected to friends through the largest social network. 1 out of every 5 webpage views on the internet is on Facebook. That means Facebook is big and popular but is it moral?

Why question the Facebook’s morality?

Facebook is not just an website. It is a communication platform where almost 1 billion people gather daily. Facebook shapes these people’s reality through the information it filters. You must be aware by now that not all your friends’ posts appear on your all but just those that Facebook deemed interesting to you (“top stories”).  Having such an input on users outlook on reality means that Facebook controls at some incipient level the things we see and therefore the way we perceive reality.

Think about the way we usually perceive the world through our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Imagine one of your senses would be altered. Let’s say sight. If we weren’t able to perceive the colors we would believe the world is black and white and by consensus the world would be defined as black and white.

Social media in particular and media in general are filters that define our perceived reality. They help us build a mental replica of the world in our brain. Any alteration of these inputs alters our reality.

Think about what that means in terms of human control: you have one trusted source of information that is able to filter some details out of your reality. How does Facebook does that, how does Facebook filter information out of my news feed?

Is Facebook moral?

Facebook, Twitter and other social networks revolutionized social relationships. With a larger pool of potential mates users can find themselves a little to attracted to the idea of polygamy. A recent UK study even pointed out that a third of all recent divorces point towards Facebook as a contributing factor.

Users, especially young ones, point toward a certain depression caused by the social network. The reason seems to be the fact that they don’t always feel adequate among their social media friends. With others posting interesting status updates and photos regarding an unrealistic lifestyle (ever had the feeling that all your Facebook friends seem to be either travelling, partying or just enjoying a perfect life?) teens feel that they can’t measure up to that kind of lifestyle.

Facebook also seems to increase jealousy and affect romance as people can now find information regarding their partners they couldn’t have found in the past.

These things paint a pretty dark picture of the social network we thought to be spotless in terms of helping human relationships. That picture is not actually accurate, though.

Facebook is as moral as guns

Facebook caused divorces
Divorces are not caused by Facebook.

Facebook is just a bunch of code patched together. It does not cause infidelity, depression or jealousy by itself. It just helps these things, sometimes.

I will focus on the fact that one third of all marriages in the UK point towards Facebook as a contributing factor. Data shows that there is a slight increase in divorce rates in UK, but it can’t be caused by Facebook.

A 2011 study showed that there was a slight increase in divorces in England and Wales, in 2010. However the number of divorces per thousand married population have actually gone down in the last ten years.

More so, if you would look at the image on the right you would see that the year Facebook opened to users 13 and older is the same year the number in divorces started going down.

If Facebook was actually causing adultery and divorces the numbers would have gone up by 30% but they didn’t. If you are looking for a correlation the data points to an actual decrease in divorce rate.

Facebook can’t be blamed for choices people make

Adultery, lies, jealousy, depression are all  part of what makes us human. We make wrong decisions and we are willing to blame anyone or anything for our mistakes. Sometimes the lack of privacy that Facebook is known for exposes those mistakes. Of course people blame Facebook for their divorce. They blame it because they got caught.