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Better than Owning. Better than Free.


No, this is not about the beloved NYC rock-opera musical. It’s about the differences (and benefits) of access vs. ownership; and a look at just what will have value when so much is available for free.

Kevin Kelly over at KK.ORG has just posted a very interesting essay on this topic, called Better Than Owning: Access is better than ownership. Take a few minutes and read it. Here’s an excerpt:

Very likely, in the near future, I won’t “own” any music, or books, or movies. Instead I will have immediate access to all music, all books, all movies using an always-on service, via a subscription fee or tax. I won’t buy – as in make a decision to own — any individual music or books because I can simply request to see or hear them on demand from the stream of ALL. I may pay for them in bulk but I won’t own them. The request to enjoy a work is thus separated from the more complicated choice of whether I want to “own” it. I can consume a movie, music or book without having to decide or follow up on ownership.

For many people this type of instant universal access is better than owning. No responsibility of care, backing up, sorting, cataloging, cleaning, or storage. As they gain in public accessibility, books, music and movies are headed to become social goods even though they might not be paid by taxes. It’s not hard to imagine most other intangible goods becoming social goods as well. Games, education, and health info are also headed in that direction.

In fact, take a few more minutes and read this piece posted by Kevin Kelly in January, 2008: Better Than Free. Here’s an excerpt:

The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it…

…Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.

When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.

When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.

Well, what can’t be copied?

And finally, if you’ve got 43 minutes to invest in getting a glimpse of the future of the Internet, watch this Kevin Kelly presentation at Web and Where 2.0+ in February 2008.
(The presentation is about ~23 min. and the Q&A, the other 20 min.)

Kevin Kelly’s “Web 3.0”