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Wikipedia describes the current economic era we are in as the "Intangible Economy." In this era, four factors of production are the key resources used as competitive advantage in every economic activity. They are:

  • Knowledge assets (what we know)
  • Collaboration assets (who we interact with to create value)
  • Engagement assets (our level of effort and commitment)
  • Time quality (how quickly value is created)

By most accounts, the Intangible Economy did not start until 2002. How did we get here? I think it is the leveling effects of the Internet on commerce and OSS on IT.

Leveling Effects of Internet on Commerce
The Internet was started by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for purposes of e-mail and file transfer. In 1991, World Wide Web (Web) was added as an additional service for interconnecting documents and other resources as links. According to Internet World Stats, as of June of 2007 there were 1.133 billion people using the Internet. The accelerating pace of growth for Internet is phenomenal compared to the growth patterns of Radio, TV or even the PC.

It was only a matter of time before the Internet, like the radio and TV, was applied to commerce. As browsers became available and enabled ordinary citizens to surf the Web, the Amazon effect kicked in. At the beginning, the Web did not provide rich, compelling and interesting information. Take a step back and think about what Amazon was able to accomplish. Millions of book titles that no shop or library could house under one roof were made available to the world with the click of a button. In addition, Amazon bypassed established power houses such as New York Times, and created its own Amazon Best Seller list based on its own sales. Shoppers at Amazon no longer relied on a few Ivory Tower reviewers to judge a book; instead they opted to read shopper-generated reviews. With one URL, Amazon was able to rock the foundations of the established players of its industry. Amazon used the Internet to create a commercial entity in a record time that no brick-and-mortar company could have ever imagined possible.

Following Amazon, a host of Internet-based companies were started and offered services that enabled small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to engage customers leveraging the new medium. With dramatically falling prices for the Internet technology, SMBs were able set up shop to not only exchange e-mail, documents, and information with their customers, but also streaming video, music, live chat, and sex. In a very short amount time, Internet allowed thousands of companies to flourish and compete head to head with established global giants.


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