Content is not king

Andrew Odlyzko

Abstract


The Internet is widely regarded as primarily a content delivery system. Yet historically, connectivity has mattered much more than content. Even on the Internet, content is not as important as is often claimed, since it is e-mail that is still the true "killer app."

The primacy of connectivity over content explains phenomena that have baffled wireless industry observers, such as the enthusiastic embrace of SMS (Short Message System) and the tepid reception of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol). Combined with statistics showing low cell phone usage, this also suggests that the 3G systems that are about to be introduced will serve primarily to stimulate more voice usage, not to provide Internet access.

For the wired Internet, the secondary role of content will likely mean that the dangers of balkanization are smaller than is often feared. Further, symmetrical links to the house are likely to be in greater demand than is usually realized. The huge sums being invested by carriers in content are misdirected.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v6i2.833



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