Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet

Economics & Culture, Media & Community, Open Source

Articles, 1993-2006

Frequently read older articles

Situated Software [Shirky.com, 3/04]
Watching my students build software form-fit to particular social situations.

The RIAA Succeeds Where the Cypherpunks Failed [Shirky.com, 12/03]
The RIAA's current legal strategy is driving broad public adoption of encryption, 10 years after it was first predicted

The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview [Shirky.com, 11/03]
The Semantic Web overestimates the value of deductive logic, and underestimates the difficulty of shared worldview

File Sharing Goes Social [Shirky.com, 10/03]
The RIAA is creating the environment for a generation of socially-bounded file sharing tools

Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content [Shirky.com, 09/03]
Why micropayments don't work, and free content is an epochal change.

A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy [Shirky.com, 07/03]
Persistent patterns in long-lived online groups.

The FCC, Weblogs, and Inequality [Shirky.com, 06/03]
The FCC's vote on media concentration draws out a lesson about a media landscape: Diverse. Free. Equal. Pick two.

Grid supercomputing: The Next Push [Shirky.com, 05/03]
Why supercomputing on tap is less important than it seems bargains

Permanet, Nearlynet, and wireless data [Shirky.com, 03/03]
Why bottom-up (e.g. Wifi) works better than top-down (e.g. 3G)

Social Software and the Politics of Groups [Shirky.com, 03/03]
Software designed for groups encodes political bargains

Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality [Shirky.com, 02/03]
Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality.

The Music Industry and the Big Flip [Shirky.com, 01/03]
Using collaborative filtering in place of the A&R department

LazyWeb and RSS: Given Enough Eyeballs, Are Features Shallow Too? [O'Reilly, 01/03]
Can distributed bug fixing methods be applied to creating features?

Customer-owned Networks: ZapMail and the Telecommunications Industry [Shirky.com, 01/03]
WiFi and VoIP mean that the telecos significant competitors are its customers.

In-room Chat as a social tool [O'Reilly, 12/02]
An experiment running a meeting side-by-side with an in-room chat channel.

DNA, P2P, and Privacy [Shirky.com, 11/02]
DNA as the ideal primary key for distributed databases.

Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing [Shirky.com, 10/02]
Weblogs are so efficient that they destroy the financial value of publishing.

Broadcast Institutions, Community Values [Shirky.com, 09/02]
The skills required to do online media well can actually damage online community.

Half the World [Shirky.com, 06/02]
An investigation of the phrase “Half the world has never made a phone call.”

- Communities, Audiences, and Scale [04/02] Audiences scale. Communities don't
- Help, the Price of Information Has Fallen and It Can’t Get Up [04/97] Why content is free on the Web.

DNA, P2P, and Privacy [Shirky.com, 11/02]
DNA as the ideal primary key for distributed databases.

Hailstorm: Open Web Services Controlled by Microsoft [O'Reilly, 05/01]
Microsoft's Hailstorm Strategy

Security and Decentralization [Biz2, 05/01]
Network Security will be a joke until IT departments recognize

The Java Renaissance [Biz2, 06/01]
Java Returns to the PC, Courtesy P2P

P2P Backlash [O'Reilly, 04/01]
The P2P meme hits a rough patch

Interoperability, Not Standards [O'Reilly, 04/01]
Standardization of P2P is Premature

Peak Performance Pricing [Biz2, 02/01]
Digital Networks and Per-Unit Costs

P2P Smuggled In Under Cover of Darkness [O'Reilly, 02/01]
Workers smuggle P2P in today like they smuggled in PCs 20 years ago

The Parable of Umbrellas and Taxicabs [O'Reilly, 01/01]
Different kinds of resources in P2P systems

The Case Against Micropayments [O'Reilly, 01/01]
Why Micropayments Won't Work, Ever.

Peers not Pareto [O'Reilly, 12/00]
And economic argument about P2P systems and Pareto optimality

In Praise of Freeloading [O'Reilly, 12/00]
Why freeloading in P2P systems is not the problem people think it is.

The Napster-BMG Deal [Feed, 10/00]
The Era of Subscription Music Begins

The End of Per-Unit Pricing (????) [Biz2, 10/00]
What Napster et al portend for per unit pricing.

PCs are the Dark Matter of the Internet [Biz2, 10/00]
Peer-to-peer relies on the PC's latent power

The DNS System is Coming Apart At the Seams [Biz2, 10/00]
Peer-to-peer bypasses the DNS system

The Music Industry Will Miss Napster [WSJ, 07/00]
If the industry kills Napster, it will lose its best potential partner

Napster and the Death of the Album Format [NYT, 07/00]
Napster had made the song, not the album, the unit of musical selection.

Napster and "Content at the Edges" [Biz2.0, 04/00]
Napster is turning the internet inside out.

Napster and "User as Media Outlet" [Biz2.0, 06/00]
Napster turns the user from a media consumer into a media provider.

Napster and music distribution [Biz2.0, 04/00]
Napster and the 55 mph speed limit.

The fusing of desktops and servers [FEED, 01/00]
Windows2000 vs. Linux in a "Content at the Edges" Internet.

The Real Wireless Innovators [Biz2, 04/01]
What the telcos and handset manufacturers don’t know about usability.

Wireless Auction Follies [Biz2.0, 11/00]
The likely effect of massive overpaying at wireless auctions

Its the Communication, Stupid. [Biz2.0, 07/00]
How the wireless world missed the boat on e-mail

WAP's Closed Door Approach [Biz2.0, 05/00]
WAP's Philosophical Characteristics

WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) and Intellectual Property [FEED, 01/00]
WAP is on a collision course with the Web as it exists today.

Half the World [Shirky.com, 06/02]
An investigation of the phrase “Half the world has never made a phone call.”

AOL, Time-Warner, and European Media [Times of London, 01/00]
The AOL Time-Warner merger from a British angle.

1999: The Year the World Wide Web Went World Wide [SAR, 12/99]
As of 1999, American internet users are in the minority. What now?

Language, The Internet, and the Next Century [ACM, 12/99]
Human language is the next great challenge for the world's networks.

The WTO and the Seattle Protests [FEED, 11/99]
How the Seattle protests may end up strengthening the WTO.

EasyEverything and Internet Use in Europe [SAR, 10/99]
What a cyber-cafe on steroids says about European Internet adoption.

Culture is Just Another Word for "Arbitrage Opportunity" [FEED, 09/99]
The threat cross-border ecommerce presents to national culture.

The Internet and the Size of Government [FEED, 08/99]
Challenges to governmental control.

Internet Use and National Identity [FEED, 07/99]
The effects of Internet adoption on national culture.

Language Networks [FEED, 07/99]
On the net, two countries border each other only if they share a language.

Citizens and Customers [FEED, 06/99]
National Identity vs. Economic Identity.

Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content [Shirky.com, 09/03]
Why micropayments don't work, and free content is an epochal change.

Customer-owned Networks: ZapMail and the Telecommunications Industry [Shirky.com, 01/03]
WiFi and VoIP mean that the telecos significant competitors are its customers.

Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing [Shirky.com, 10/02]
Weblogs are so efficient that they destroy the financial value of publishing.

Half the World [Shirky.com, 06/02]
An investigation of the phrase “Half the world has never made a phone call.”

The Wal-Mart Future [Biz2, 01/01]
You can't pursue an inflationary path to a deflationary ideal.

AOL’s Brilliant Climbdown [FEED, 01/00]
What the AOL Time-Warner Merger Says about the Media Business

The Abuse of Intellectual Property Law [FEED, 12/99]
How lawsuits are stifling innovation.

Pretend vs. Real Economy [FEED, 06/99]
The difference between the stock market and the economy.

Free PC Business Models [FEED, 03/99]
The Economics of the "Free PC" movement.

Why Smart Agents Are A Dumb Idea [ACM, 6/99]
“Smart Agents” are the wrong solution to the problem of info-liquidity.

The Divide by Zero Era: The Arrival of the Free Computer [ACM, 12/98]
Radical shifts in computer economics.

Help, the Price of Information Has Fallen and It Can't Get Up [ACM, 04/97]
Why content is free on the Web.

Who Are You Paying When You're Paying Attention? [ACM, 06/99]
Converting attention to cash.

IN-room Chat as a social tool [O'Reilly, 12/02]
An experiment running a meeting side-by-side with an in-room chat channel

Broadcast Institutions, Community Values [Shirky.com, 09/02]
The skills required to do online media well can actually damage online community.

Social Software and the Politics of Groups [Shirky.com, 03/03]
Software designed for groups encodes political bargains

Domain Names: Memorable, Global, Non-political? [Shirky.com, 05/02]
Semantics, and therefore legal issues, are an inevitable part of naming

Communities, Audiences, and Scale [Shirky.com, 04/02]
Audiences scale. Communities don’t

Resist the lure of simplified history [Biz2.0, 09/00]
Where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

The Toughest Virus of All [Biz2, 07/00]
Why viral marketing can never be a general purpose tool.

Internet World ’00: A View From the Floor [SAR, 11/99]
What the ’00 Internet World says about the state of the industry.

RIP, the Consumer, 1900-1999 [SAR, 05/00]
Mass media is a historical anomoly

Time-Warner and ILOVEYOU [FEED, 05/00]
Corporate and idividual control of media outlets

We’ve (Still) Got a Long Way to Go [Biz2.0, 06/00]
The Library of Congress Underestimates the Internet

Ford, Subsidized Computers, and Free Speech [FEED, 01/00]
The 1st Amendment protects public space. What happens on the commercial internet?

The Cable Internet Industry is an Over-hyped Meltdown Waiting to Happen [Biz 2.0, 11/99]
The Cable Internet industry is ignoring the lessons of the Web’sgrowth.

ATT and Cable Internet Access [FEED, 11/99]
ATT's attempt to buy itself a new monopoly.

An Open Letter to Microsoft [SAR, 09/99]
Software usability and what it means to be a media company.

An Open Letter to Jakob Nielsen [ACM, 06/99]
An argument against design standards on the web.

Internet World '99: A View From the Floor [SAR, 11/99]
What the ’99 Internet World says about the state of the industry.

How Television Ratings Portend the Death of Mass Media [FEED, 10/99]
Television is becoming more like the Web.

Web Traffic and TV Ratings. [FEED, 04/99]
Big web sites are now as widely seen as any TV series.

Kasparov vs. The World [FEED, 10/99]
What the Kasparov community chess match tells us about community.

The Internet and Hit-driven Industries [SAR, 07/99]
Why Hollywood is really going to hate the Web.

Social Computing in Student Populations [self-published, 02/99]
What college students can tell us about Internet use.

Don’t Believe the Hype [ACM, 10/96]
User preference and product design.

Cyberporn!!! (So What???) [Urban Desires, 03/96]
First Amendment issues and the regulation of pornography on the net.

XML: No Magic Problem Solver [Biz2.0, 09/00]
XML can solve technological problems, but not business problems.

Darwin, Linux, and Adaptive Radiation [Biz2.0, 10/00]
The spread of Linux to multiple devices.

The fusing of desktops and servers [FEED, 01/00]
Windows2000 vs. Linux in a “Content at the Edges” Internet.

Open Source and Quake [FEED, 01/00]
Games and the possibility of going Open Source after the fact.

Why Stricter Software Patents End Up Benefitting Open Source [FEED, 08/99]
Why commercial software controls will backfire.

Sun's Quasi-Open Source model [FEED, 10/99]
Sun Microsytems's misunderstanding of Open Source

Time to Open Source the Human Genome [FEED, 09/99]
Patent law and human genetics.

View Source... Lessons from the Web's Rapid Development [ACM, 04/98]
The Web considered as a massive Open Source project.

In Praise of Evolvable Systems [ACM, 03/98]
Central Planning vs. Evolution

Playfulness in 3D Spaces [ACM, 03/98]
Why Quake is better than VRML, and what it means for software design.

The Icarus Effect [ACM, 11/97]
Network traffic is growing faster than chip speed.

The “Interest Horizon” of Open Source [self-published, 02/99]
The economic limits of Open Source

Short Takes on Linux. [self-published, 10/98]
Brief theses about Linux and Open Source development.

Slashdot Interview [Slashdot, 05/01]
Q&A about the net, media and economics on slashdot

WAP and International Net Adoption [ebusinessforum, 06/00]
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ebusinessforum

Interview with Red Herring magazine [MediaLife.com, 03/00]
Social computing, ASPs, and broadband.

Interview with Media Life magazine [MediaLife.com, 11/99]
Where the Web is going, as it relates to media and advertising.

Cyberporn Update [Urban Desires, 10/96]
My testimony against the Communications Decency Act.

Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet

Economics & Culture, Media & Community, Open Source