In the zone
Definition: Information zone is a collection of information resources—computational, storage, network interfaces, human interfaces, physical interfaces and software—that are jointly useful.
Examples: A standalone PC is an information zone, but components alone are not: a RAM chip is useless without a motherboard. Craigslist is an information zone; so is, of course, the Web as a whole, but a Web terminal is not: it requires a network connection to function. iPod, iTunes and iTunes Music Store are bound together by a single information zone.
Theorem: In the free market, competitive information zones expand with time.
Proof: for a system to stay competitive in the marketplace, its functionality must not decrease. Shrinking information zones lead to decrease in functionality. (It is possible in principle to compensate for shrunk information zone, but in practice it is very difficult.) Information zones that are larger than competitors attract more new users. Older users switch when the cost of switching is exceeded by the value of switching to the larger information zone. As a result, competitive information zones become larger, and larger information zones become more competitive.
Examples: you upgrade your computer to expand its information zone, and don't remove components under normal circumstances to avoid shrinking it. Number of Web pages increases with time, as the Web is a competitive information zone.
Corollary: In the future, all information zones will be unified, with the exception of contexts in which free market rules do not apply.
Proof: expansion of the total information space is relatively slow compared to the expansion of the information zones. To expand the total informational space, new physical devices must be produced. On the other hand the information zones can be expanded fairly cheaply—for example, bridging two networks doubles the size of both information zones overnight. Free market competition drives fast expansion of information zones. The most efficient way to expand zones is to combine them—and given the slow expansion rate of the total space and high economic pressure to grow the zones, eventually all information zones will merge. Users will still interact with individual devices, but the overall experience will be seamless.
The application of the information zone theory states: Business models that are in conflict with the vision of a unified information zone are not sustainable in the long term. Specific prediction: efforts to protect proprietary IM networks are pointless and counterproductive. AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger and Google Talk will all become interoperable to the benefit of all the users.