Saturday, November 19, 2005

In the zone

What follows is an attempt to summarize an essential pattern of technological development using a simple quasiscientific theoretical framework. This theory should provide qualitative model of evolution of user experience. The core concept of information zone is introduced first.

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.

Example: networks merge together to create the Internet, except for military and other closed networks. Global voice network grows to include cellular and VoIP communications, all interoperable.

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.

8 Comments:

Blogger jonny-no-stars said...

In the future, all information zones will be unified, with the exception of contexts in which free market rules do not apply.

Questions.

In what way, or did you not go so far as to imagine what the future might look like? (not a criticism, simply a consideration of a possible)

Why is unification predicated upon the free market rather than the workings of governments? Or are you considering them (here, at least) a part of the marketplace?

Free market competition drives fast expansion of information zones

Are you involved in or interested in any social sciences field e.g. linguistics, semiotics, human geography? Is this the approach you are taking or are you just considering this from a "business-person's" (i.e. how do I gain/maintain competitive advantage for, ultimately, economic purposes)?

You touch upon other questions in your approach to what seems to be an interest solely in the world of ICT. Is that deliberate? (that might be tautologous with the above).

The conclusion is how all business says it looks to act and might very well be how the computer industry ends up; essentially following other industries.

But what about the other factors that might impinge upon this prediction?

Ok, this is becoming more thought-provoking, so I'll consider it further.

Please delete/edit the crap out of this as you wish, but I'd be interested in hearing more from you and the purpose of this comment has changed from comment to question.

4:53 AM  
Blogger jrp said...

jonny-no-stars,

Thank you for your questions.

In what way, or did you not go so far as to imagine what the future might look like?

This blog describes my vision of the future. Please follow it as I fill in more details.

Why is unification predicated upon the free market rather than the workings of governments?

Governments do not control global computing infrastructure: they help shape its development, but only indirectly. Any government—even the U.S.—can pass a decree to completely withdraw a country from the Internet, but that won't fundamentally affect the Net.

You touch upon other questions in your approach to what seems to be an interest solely in the world of ICT. Is that deliberate?

Computer industry is unique in that it is driven by software, and the cost of copying software is zero. It is cheap and easy to introduce new protocols with software; in any other industry, new infrastructure requires heavy investment. My argument depends on active competition between protocols with low switching costs, therefore it is specific to the computer industry.

3:24 PM  
Blogger DD2 said...

Very nice blog. Keep up the fine work

5:57 AM  
Anonymous click here to see tornado pics said...

If all information zones will be unified there will be one operating system. All improvements will have to link or engage in universal change. If this is the case it will be a monopoly right?

8:41 AM  
Blogger Kayem Q said...

do you believe yourself to be in control? do you know deep inside your heart that problems are solvable within themselves, that every wall is a bridge waiting to be knocked down, that a loss turned to a win is the only true key for ultimate victory?

it's a very nice blog, and you're obviously a person with higher intellect, but I not agree that someday everything will unite. it has already happened, and these sorts of things, blog postings and comments, are what we do to amuse ourselves, to distract the eyes and brain from the un-namable, intangible, latent fear that grips at all six strings of the heart at once.

The Fear, as Hunter would've said.

I did rather enjoy your presentation of it, though, if not the idea itself. keep at it.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Ernesto Puesto said...

I agree with jrp, but don't agree with "click here to see tornado pics". It is possible to unify all information zones without use the same operating system.
BTW, the United Nations are monopolic?

7:58 AM  
Blogger antrik said...

I agree that "information zones" tend to expand and converge. However, this is not something that will be completed at some point. It's rather an ongoing process, with existing zones converging, but new ones popping up all the time, starting out as islands, and only with time getting integrated in the overall picture -- while even newer ones pop up.

6:15 PM  
OpenID Calimo said...

I disagree with "Proof: for a system to stay competitive in the marketplace, its functionality must not decrease."

As an example, look at Firefox: it is a dramatic functionality reduction (decrease) compared to its ancestor Mozilla. Yet I would say it is pretty successful. This is because the feature reduction was largely compensated by usability enhancements. But actually most of these usability enhancements were made possible by the feature reduction itself. There are a lot of such examples, like Thunderbird, Ubuntu...
I believe that generally, systems with larger information zones are more difficult to use (maintenance is no question here), and that users will tend to choose lighter and easier-to-use systems that fits best with their needs. I don't believe in the unified (monopolistic) information zone. To the contrary, we can see a lot of application appearing (and a lot of them dying also, when they didn't find their user base)

1:40 AM  

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