from the world's big
The Power of the Consumer
Chris Anderson is editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, which has won a National Magazine Award under his tenure. He coined the phrase The Long Tail in an acclaimed Wired article, which he expanded upon in the book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. His most recent book is Free: The Future of a Radical Price.
Before joining Wired in 2001, he worked at The Economist, where he launched their coverage of the Internet. He also has a degree in physics from George Washington University and did research at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has also worked at the journals Nature and Science.
Question: What are your thoughts on cloud computing?
Chris Anderson: We’ve always had this question of platform ownership, remember Microsoft? Remember Windows? How we used to worry about Microsoft’s hold on this platform that we all had to build on. In that case, you had a singular platform, right? It was a Windows world. We just lived in it. The good news of that is it was pretty clear when there was undue restrictions on access to the platform, then we knew who to blame. Right? Straight to Redmond, go for it. Now there’s multiple platforms. I mean, there are all the ones you mentioned. You know, the Twitters, the Facebooks, the browsers are in some sense are a platform, then you have the devices, Apple, iPhone, many other devices, they might make their own platforms, you see this kind of massive platform battle. Each one of them is trying to establish some sense of proprietary, ownership of a platform for all the reasons you state. Yet, because there are so many platforms, consumers do have choice. If you are Facebook and you decide to build a platform that really locks people in, there’s a strong incentive for people to look elsewhere. You do see these kind of forces in opposition. There’s the one force, the very natural, company force [whose] instinct is to close things up and to own them. Then, you have the consumers whose sort of natural force is to demand openness, demand portability, demand the ability to exit as easily as they enter. We talk about lowering the barriers to entry but you also want to lower the barriers to exit so that people don’t feel like they’re risking everything.
Open ID and open apps are two examples. I think we’re seeing these two battles play out and although Jonathon is absolutely right, that this is a risk, I perhaps have more confidence in the power of the marketplace to sort this out. I think that the one thing we’re sure about in this era is that we have choice, lots and lots of choice. If Facebook gets it wrong or if Twitter gets it wrong, there are a thousand other companies in the wings just waiting to get it righter. Knowing that, I believe --and so true for Google the elephant in the room on this-- I think knowing that their hold on the consumer is not permanent, it’s not cast in stone and is only permitted as long as they serve the consumer better than the obvious alternatives, I believe, will keep them doing the right thing.
Recorded on September 30, 2009
The massive platform competition means companies must do everything they can to retain customers. The marketplace will sort itself out, says Chris Anderson, author of Free.
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What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>