domingo, 14 de abril de 2013

O lado negro da internet gratuita

Os produtos e serviços de acesso livre na internet provocam danos colaterais, escreve o professor do MIT Michael Cusumano no número de Abril da revista Communications of the ACM.

Enquanto a Wikipedia prospera, fecham empresas que produzem enciclopédias à moda antiga. Enquanto o Google distribui livremente notícias copiadas da imprensa tradicional, jornais e revistas vão à falência.

A gratuitidade não é a principal área de negócio das empresas que a praticam, pelo que daqui a alguns anos teremos a internet cheia de conteúdos de qualidade duvidosa. Ao mesmo tempo, as fontes primárias, responsáveis por produtos e serviços com padrões de qualidade mínimos, terão sido dizimadas.

«Usage of Wikipedia is up, but contributions have been declining steadily over the past several years. Meanwhile, encyclopedia companies, including the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica, have closed or found it increasingly difficult to sell their traditional products. Will the world be better off if most encyclopedia companies shut their doors and most people only use Wikipedia? Maybe, but maybe not. [...] Free products and services appear over the Internet because the marginal cost of reproducing and delivering a digital good is essentially zero.

[...] But these calculations ignore the expenses associated with research, development, marketing, sales, infrastructure overhead, quality control, and administration. So, yes, digital goods and services such as software products, newspapers, magazines, books, music, video, and even college classes may have close to zero marginal costs and "gross margins" of up to 99%. But if revenues collapse [...] then at least some institutions will have another calculation to make: 99% of zero = zero.
Companies that survive the on-slaught of competition from free alternatives generally have business models and economies of scale and scope that enable them to take advantage of what we call "multi-sided markets." Their products are really "free, but not free." They subsidize one side of the market to gain users and make money from other parts.

[...] Open source software like Linux is free but the leading distributor, Red Hat, sells more than a billion dollars' worth of professional services each year (and also pays itself for a lot of Linux development). Google gives away the Android operating system and the Chrome browser for smartphones and tablets, and much other software functionality delivered over its website. But Google is not in the business of selling software products; it primarily sells advertising to companies who want to reach the billions of users of its search tools and other free products and services.[...] Do we have more variety and a better world when only a few players survive in an industry?»

(texto original aqui.)