Investor Esther Dyson published this piece in her Release 1.0 newsletter in 1994. It’s a look forward at what the market for content and digital goods with the rise of the internet.
These were the days of CompuServe and AOL, when you had to pay by the hour for access to the net. Software was still sold in a box, still on diskettes, and effectively all media was still consumed in print. Even search engines were in their very early days.
Dyson is prescient here, with some amazingly accurate predictions about how value would shift to different parts of the value chain for digital works:
Intellectual property that can be copied easily likely will be copied. It will be copied so easily and efficiently that much of it will be distributed free in order to attract attention or create desire for follow-up services that can be charged for.
The way to become a leading content provider may be to start by giving your content away. This “generosity” isn’t a moral decision: it’s a business strategy.
She references what eventually would become the open source movement, SaaS companies, and subscription publishing. An astonishingly forward-looking view of how intellectual property would evolve, and also assumes an internet explosion that wasn’t obviously inevitable at the time.
I still would love to see a publication (looking at you Increment) that curates and republishes historically-important articles from the history of computers.