Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Google Complement - Free Content

Nicholas Carr might suggest that Google is on Martin's side in the future of content debate. Essentially he says Google wants content to be free because this complements its core business thereby making that business stronger.
Because the sales of complementary products rise in tandem, a company has a strong strategic interest in reducing the cost and expanding the availability of the complements to its core product. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that a company would like all complements to be given away. If hot dogs became freebies, mustard sales would skyrocket. It’s this natural drive to reduce the cost of complements that, more than anything else, explains Google’s strategy. Nearly everything the company does, including building big data centers, buying optical fiber, promoting free Wi-Fi access, fighting copyright restrictions, supporting open source software, and giving away Web services and data, is aimed at reducing the cost and expanding the scope of Internet use. To borrow a well-worn phrase, Google wants information to be free - and that is why Google strikes fear into so many different kinds of companies.

That actually also goes to the heart of why I (the poor man's Lessig remember) am no longer as pessimistic as I used to be about future limited access to content through tollbooths concentrated in few hands, even though drm is not going away. Large commercial entities are lined up on both sides of the divide and Google is likely to have more weight than all the most rational, evidence-based arguments academics, other experts and activists can muster. As Lessig says of his next ten year project, tackling corruption in US politics, it's all about the money.

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