by Mike Masnick

How Jealousy Could Destroy The Internet

from the irrational-decision-making dept

Jealousy is a very powerful emotion. It can make for some great stories in books or movies, but it has no place in the board room -- yet, that's where it is these days. Fred Wilson pointed this out quite clearly last week, when he correctly said that all this talk by the Baby Bells that Google, Microsoft, Vonage and other successful web companies should pay the telcos extra was simple jealousy. Wilson tells the Bells to "dream on," and while we hope he's right, he may be underestimating the destructive power of jealousy. And, it's not just the Baby Bells who are acting this way -- but plenty of online businesses. If they keep it up, they're going to destroy a good thing, just because they can't stand the thought of someone else being successful.

We first mentioned this idea almost exactly a year ago, when a bunch of bloggers started complaining about others making their sites more accessible. The complaint was that these other sites were "profiting" from the work of others -- but that's not true. They were profiting from making the work of others more useful. Just as Google and the others made SBC AT&T's DSL lines valuable, getting angry over someone making your product more valuable is all about jealousy. There's this weird belief that no one else should be allowed to profit from anything you do -- even if that profit is from adding value to it, often in ways that add value to you as well. It's why we hear stories about big companies freaking out over sites that drive more traffic and interest in their services or who aggregate your content in ways you don't like. In many cases, it may be legally correct to make these moves -- but that doesn't mean it makes business sense. Very often, the opposite is true.

Considering the powerful position Google has these days online, it's no surprise that Google is often at the center of this jealousy. It's the main company the Baby Bells want to pay up. It also explains the Google Print controversy -- as authors and book publishers are upset, even though Google is making their content more useful by making it searchable. The latest case of Google jealousy comes courtesy of online publishers, with a Business Week writer suggesting the idea of having major publishers completely cut their content off from Google. It is, as the cliche goes, cutting off your nose to spite your face. People are so upset that Google is successful, they don't seem to notice that it's helped make them more successful too. Google is successful because it's adding value, not just for users, but to the sites it directs its traffic. Cutting Google off makes the content less useful and serves no purpose other than giving in to destructive jealousy. Part of the power of the internet is that it has been able to avoid most of this, by making it easy to link, embed, modify and copy -- to offer new and different ways to manipulate and view the information that's out there. It's that openness that makes the whole thing valuable. Throwing up walls, tollbooths and blockades for the sake of jealousy harms the entire system. Those who support these moves claim they do so to try to maximize their own profit -- trying to take a piece of the cut from these other services that make their product valuable. However, that's a short-sighted view. If they want to do that, they should make their products more valuable on their own without cutting off others. The "profit" they believe they're maximizing, they're actually shrinking by cutting off the added value that others provide. The more this jealousy continues, the more harm it does to the overall value presented by the internet.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2006 @ 12:19pm

    greed, not jealousy

    In the case of the bandwidth providers, I don't think that they are jealous of Google so much as they are simply eyeing Google as a potentially huge new source of revenue. These are big, old-fashioned public companies constantly looking for new revenue streams to jack up next quarter's numbers. Absent fresh new ideas and business models, they naturally cast a covetous eye on the deep pockets of Google. It's greed, not jealousy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Just Another Joe, 13 Jan 2006 @ 12:43pm

    Re: greed, not jealousy

    That all well and good if they want to increase their revenue, but what right do they have to try and charge Google for accessing their customers? Google pays to access the internet as well, granted they pay for a whole lot more bandwith than the average user would. Why should they also have to pay "tolls" to all of the other telcos? Its like the telcos want to make the internet one bit tollway of information and if they are allowed to do that, what is to stop them from charging the user to access google? Is it all going to end up internet a la carte? Access to the most popular web servers for an additional $19.95 a month? or $29.95 a month for access to everything? Scary...and totally stupid I might add.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2006 @ 1:01pm

    Re: greed, not jealousy

    Joe, I believe that if the telco had their way back several years ago, the a la carte package you described would be exactly what they would have done. Heck, this setup seems to be working for the cable television companies... and people pay it because they have just one other choice - to not watch TV (ie, to not use the internet, re: telco).

    side note, very good weekend articles Mike!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Rikko, 13 Jan 2006 @ 1:17pm

    No Subject Given

    Good article, Mike.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Chris Lindquist, 13 Jan 2006 @ 1:18pm

    Re: greed, not jealousy

    Scary indeed. But I don't think anyone would be surprised if the telcos try to extract some extra revenue from all those bits floating around the network. Who's going to stop them? And maybe nobody should try.

    If the telcos start charging extra fees or throttling popular sites or cutting big sites off completely, it will undoubtedly drive competition in other broadband areas--wireless, satellite, heck, maybe even broadband over powerline or broadband over gas pipes would become viable.

    Right now, I have two broadband options available, and both want to tie me into a bunch of other services I'd rather not buy. Throw my gas company, power company, and a local wireless ISP into the mix, though, and I'd suddenly gain a little leverage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Dumb, 13 Jan 2006 @ 1:26pm


    I never understand how people think they are the owners of all.

    Everyone wants to be the Gatekeeper these days. I would suggest people stop using services of wannabe thieves.

    I really hate greedy people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Mike Linksvayer (profile), 13 Jan 2006 @ 1:26pm

    Mix of envy, jealousy, and greed

    Jealousy is "I wish I had what X has -- let's see how I can steal it." Envy is "I don't have what X has -- let's see how I can destroy it." Obviously envy is more destructive, as it can only be negative sum.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    haggie, 13 Jan 2006 @ 2:47pm

    No Subject Given

    Ford wants Wal-Mart to pay Ford for all the customers their trucks transport to Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Scott, 13 Jan 2006 @ 2:48pm

    Look at the root of the problem

    Commercialization of the Internet is the problem here. Back when the World Wide Web was just information, nobody complained about issues like this. It was purely meant for free information and entertainment, and in my humble opinion, that's the way it should have stayed. If you didn't want your information to be manipulated in other ways, you simply wouldn't put it online. Nowadays, everyone wants to put stuff online with restrictions, and that's the very attitude that is destroying the Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Xanthir, 13 Jan 2006 @ 3:05pm

    Re: greed, not jealousy

    "Heck, this setup seems to be working for the cable television companies..."

    Bad analogy, actually. You pay one cost for TV. With network television, it's ads, with cable it's ads+cable bills.

    This on the other hand, is double-charging everyone. You pay for your line, the service pays for their line, and then you both pay even more for the right to actually *use* the line.

    Basically, the telcos are trying to repackage what you're currently paying as a simple 'connection' fee. That way, they're free to add an additional usage fee.

    Even the other big industry that springs to mind - cellphones - isn't this audacious. You just buy hardware and then pay for usage. No real 'connection' fee, unless you count all those free minutes you pay for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Jack, 13 Jan 2006 @ 3:23pm

    Re: greed, not jealousy

    With cell phones you pay to make a call and the preson who is receiving the call has to pay for it to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Kevin Murphy, 13 Jan 2006 @ 3:45pm

    No Subject Given

    Hilarious! I love it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Andrew Strasser, 13 Jan 2006 @ 4:00pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    It's simple without search engines the internet is next to useless...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Vertical_Bloke, 13 Jan 2006 @ 5:41pm


    So if I owned one of those old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar shops and a local business directory included a map telling my potential customers how to get to my shop, I should maybe sue the business directory for a share of its profits????

    Yeah - it is a bit short-sighted, isn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    DV Henkel-Wallace, 14 Jan 2006 @ 5:19am

    so what?

    I don't think I've ever seen NYT results in a query to yahoo or google anyway. As for classified ads, let the search engine do the classification and I'll put the ad on my own site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    stop the bitching, 14 Jan 2006 @ 7:37am

    Your missing the point

    Everyone acts as if these networks just magically appeared. The phone and cable companies are spending billions putting these in the ground based on business models that show revenue from Video, Voice and Data.

    I dont object to google adding value and offering a competitive service but when that happens the netowrk providers need to justify their expenses by revising their business models. As I see it that leaves 2 options- raise rates for data so that 90%+ of their revenue comes from this service and almost give the other 2 away to be competitive with the Googles, AOL's and others offering IPTV and VoIP or only guarantee a QoS when both the 3rd party service providers and subscribers have paid for it.

    Like it or not networks are not free and the network capacity needed to deliver a quality experience for these 3rd party services is significant. In fact very few cable companies, that have the fastest plants so far, are capale of delivering the bandwidth across their footprints without expensive upgrades and recovering neccesaary spectrum when analog is dropped

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Mike (profile), 14 Jan 2006 @ 10:54am

    Re: Your missing the point

    Everyone acts as if these networks just magically appeared. The phone and cable companies are spending billions putting these in the ground based on business models that show revenue from Video, Voice and Data.

    I'm not quite sure what that has to do with anything. Let's say I spent billions building a museum based on business models that show revenue from attendees, food sales and merchandise sales...

    If the telcos were running the place, after it became more popular, they'd start trying to charge the artists/art owners for being on exhibit -- forgeting that the only reason people come is because of the art.

    About the only other thing that I can take from your post is that the telcos didn't understand the economics of their own networks, and now plan to shoot themselves in the foot to fix that. If that's a smart business plan, then we're all in a lot of trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    bigpicture, 14 Jan 2006 @ 2:38pm

    How Jealousy Could Destroy The Internet

    Trying to force control and regulation on a free market economy? A free market economy is about competition, so then deregulate the whole thing. If say AT&T wants to get into the Google web type business, let them.
    But also let Google get into the carrier type business, with internet and phone services and the whole bit, and then see if these tel-cos still feel the same way about being in the web business. They want a slice of the pie without having to take any of the business financial risks, or having to compete in a free market.
    That kind of business does not benefit anyone but the easy money business extortionists. It is like taxes, it is non value added. A waste??

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Ramon Leonato, 15 Jan 2006 @ 2:06pm

    Jealousy and other threats related to bad feelings

    Definitely so jealousy may destroy the internet, but other things can destroy the internet also. Among them the fact that Internet is today also the field for criminal activities. In the last few days I have been receiving an enormous amount of emails which were fake from ebay, pay pal, the Netherlands Lotto etc... trying to get from me my password to this accounts. And some of them looked so good that could be mistaken by the real thing, but users of the internet that engage in criminal activities disguise themselves in anonymity that internet provides.

    What about an internet between authenticated and identified users... so that the majority of internet users that don't mind to be identified because they live in a free country and at the same time, not being engaged in fraudulent activity or criminal activity don't mind to inter-communicate with other identified and authenticated members of the net. Why should anyone want to be anonymous if not engaged in criminal activity?

    This is my point. Why techdirt, for example, goes against companies that are fighting to bring privacy and security within identified users when using the internet to communicate? This is the case of the articles posted in your website about a company called Amteus.

    Now, once in communication with an identified user, which is properly authenticated, then you provide privacy, so... unless you want to make it public, nobody can access your communication because it is properly secured and encrypted. i.e. it travels in a closed envelope and it is unlawfull to open it, and it is being between identified and authenticated users that trust each other. Otherwise not only the governments with their NSAs involved in their own practices will snoop on us, but gangs of gangsters will easily intercept our communications, phishing like the email I have received will only be the beginning. I am starting a website to support this kind of approach.

    This requires legislation, but also requires technology. Like the one developed by Amteus. But there are many other.

    I hope that the people with vision that have given to the internet a view that will promote freedom and cleanliness, like John Perry Barlow will help this company to succeed in a very honorable project.

    span lang="en-us"It is very distressing these days what is going on with the Internet. Hopefully companies like Amteus Plc that are bringing a technology to overcome this problem of snooping, spam, phishing etc.. will survive attacks from those that hide behind anonimity.

    Ramon Leonatoo

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    discojohnson, 15 Jan 2006 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Jealousy and other threats related to bad feel

    today's obligatory spam. thanks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2006 @ 8:28am

    No Subject Given

    So, Since I am in the phonebook, do I have the right to sue now? Your local phone directory is in simple terms the same as google, but in a tangible medium.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Eva Campbell, 12 Feb 2007 @ 12:21pm

    I am jealous. Help me

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2008 @ 6:40am

    you are on the enternet

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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