Subject: Re: Free *Network* Software Business?
From: Seth Johnson <>
Date: Tue, 02 Dec 2008 23:13:07 -0500

I've often speculated that one might be able to sell the *quality* of
information -- its accuracy, its completeness, its timeliness, its
usability in terms of attributes available for whatever uses one
needs, common understanding of its specifications and "business
terms", its scalability and flexibility generally in terms of
nonredundancy and reuse.  You'd have to establish a context of
measurement of these characteristics, perhaps advertising your quality
rates in an open way that allows verification of the integrity of the
measure, perhaps hooked up to usage contexts that happen to
problematize particular characteristics -- like some sort of context
where successful outcomes depend on accurate information, or complete,
or whatever.  So maybe there could be independent actors measuring
various providers of information, or maybe there could be "discovered"
or "intuited" quality in circumstances where providers don't volunteer

It seems to me that competition would be really, really hard, though. 
Selling more accurate or complete, etc. information than your
competitors seems like hard work against rapidly escalating
improvements in technological and procedural approaches.

You seem to want to create some sort of uniform data architecture for
consumer network services, and some aspect of it you seem to think
would be salable -- yet it would seem to me that the adoption/uptake
would be predicated on its universality/generality or adaptibility or
simplicity, or somesuch.  I have almost zero capacity to think clearly
about business/market/economic models (hence my almost complete
silence on this list), but my feeling is that competing would be
really hard.  When I think about information freedom and the intrinsic
freedom of information, I always tend to bottom out with selling
quality as such.


"Michael R. Bernstein" wrote:
> Hi folks,
> I am considering launching a new venture, centered around a (to be
> written) consumer network service.
> My inclination is to license the software under the AGPLv3, and make it
> a 'Franklin Street Statement[1]' compliant Free Network Service.
> There are proprietary competitors in this space, but no dominant vendors
> (indeed, speaking of 'vendors' at all is somewhat misleading, most
> existing services are promotional rather than revenue-generating). The
> service itself does not have strong inherent network effects beyond the
> social and word-of-mouth kind, nor would independently deployed
> instances have much to gain by peering or federating with each other.
> However, by embracing data portability, I think I've identified an
> opportunity to add some interesting functionality and define a new data
> format. None of the existing services in this space give *any* thought
> to data import or export, and each is more-or-less built from scratch.
> So, I think it is possible this new data format could create it's own
> network effects, and thus create an ecosystem and minor industry. The
> potential size/importance of said ecosystem could end up being anywhere
> between 'Desktop Themes' (ie. a cottage industry at best, some
> opportunity for monetization through aggregation) and 'fonts' (whoah).
> Sorry for being somewhat coy at this stage, but can anyone suggest case
> studies or existing business models that would be applicable for the
> constraints I've laid out?
> - Michael Bernstein
> [1]
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