7.0372 R: Virtual Interactions (1/38)

Thu, 23 Dec 1993 10:32:37 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0372. Thursday, 23 Dec 1993.

Date: Tue 21 Dec 93 20:33:37-PST
From: Ken Laws <LAWS@ai.sri.com>
Subject: Re: 7.0365 Virtual Books (1/15)

James McSwain mentioned Howard Rheingold's new book. I haven't
read it, but I have read the Business Week review and I've heard
Howard on the radio. I think he's right that people want to
interact with other people. (That became evident from the
French Minitel system and from the extremely popular chat lines
on CompuServe and other services.) However, Howard Rheingold
has little experience with the nets outside The WELL, a very
elite net community that is active in the arts, environmental
concerns, and other social causes.

Email or newsgroup reading involves a single interface program
-- for any one person -- and is not too difficult to learn.
The richness of personal interaction easily pays back the
effort to learn this interface. It's harder to imagine
people ordering pizzas and bank statements from disparate
visual interfaces provided by individual service vendors.
Yet that has to be the next step.

I really think that Howard is missing the money angle.
There's no money to be made in people talking to people,
beyond basic communication charges. The large cash flows
are in other services, and those services will evolve
to the point that people are willing to pay for them
and to learn to use the interfaces. Acceptance will be
slow, but it will come. There will always be people talking
to people, but there will also be reporters summarizing
the discussions, authors selling their books, celebrity
interviews, fee-based data services, and everything else
that you find in other markets. Distribution costs are
near zero, so only a small audience is needed for each
service. We haven't worked out yet how to "draw a crowd"
to a new service, but advertising will also finds its place.
The commercial infrastructure is developing; whether rapidly
or slowly depends on your historical perspective.

-- Ken Laws