The Wealth of Networks Chapter Reviews – Chapter 3

@Kevin | Social

In Chapter 3 Benkler looks at how different groups leverage the computing power of the masses, be it either volunteers or customers, through different peering environments. Some of the examples given were non-profit and profit based, with the non-profits operating with people working towards working on a common cause. The main for profit program listed, Skype, was the one program I found to be rather troubling.

I find it interesting that people are so willing to give up their resources to various online entities because they feel that doing so doesn’t intrude on them but in reality are they giving up more than they know? Allowing corporations to leverage the power of your computer be it processing power or bandwidth, when you aren’t using it creates a lower overhead for them and allows them to be more competitive with the products they offer. Skype probably wouldn’t exist if everything needed to be driven completely out of a central computing center. This program operates by using a peer-to-peer network based of the technology of Kazaa, which is a peer-to-peer file-sharing program. Because Skype is designed in this manner they don’t have to pay for expensive switches or servers, which decreases their cost of doing business, allowing them to offer up a product that is extremely cheap when compared to traditional telecommunication technology. While we are giving up something to these companies (our processing power or bandwidth) for a product, are they gaining a lot more in return?

To me I find it scary that so many people are offering up their resources to these corporations with very little knowledge of what exactly they are doing. For charity and projects like SETI I understand and find this a great way to accomplish larger goals with little resources but on a business end I feel that it is intrusive and ultimately an unethical way to do business. While Skype has a lot of free and cheap features it is ultimately taking advantage of the user in order to profit.