Pick Your Fight: Browser War versus ISP “3 Strikes” Battle
It’s like a tale of two conflicts, where one tale concerns the renewed fight for browser supremacy (brought on by yet another brand new mega-hyped challenger); and the other deals with the never-ending tussle between music labels and illegal file-sharers (with Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, caught smack in the middle). It remains to be seen which battle will eventually come to be perceived as the good fight, but for now, which of the main protagonists would you rather be: the music label, the ISP or the web browser maker?
One key point of note, to my mind, is that both fights are intrinsically linked to the exceptional growth and ubiquity of the Internet, and ever-increasing bandwidth / connectivity for users and electronic devices. Both battles are also centered on the need, by some parties, to control access to certain resources (e.g. online information or media content), but that is where the similarity ends and the outcome / impact on the end-user begin to emerge.
On the one hand, this so called browser wars are ostensibly a good thing for the consumer, due to the beneficial effects of innovative companies trying to out-do each other for increased browser market share. The result is a win-win situation for both consumer and victor/s of the browser wars. On the other hand, when ISPs start monitoring, throttling bandwidth, and perhaps disconnecting, their users on suspicion of illegal content downloads, it becomes less clear as to who the likely winners and losers could be. Is it: the end-users, the ISPs, the record labels, or all / none / some of the above, (and to what degree do they win or lose anyway)?
It also makes one wonder if / how the lessons and outcomes of one battle can be applied to the other? For example, what if browser makers were forced to start targeting their users for possible prosecution, based on browsing habits and consumption of copyright-infringing content (e.g. illegal use of logos, text, images, videos and audio), will they really stand a chance in their particular battlefield? I think not, given the fact that user privacy, via so called private browsing mode, is now being touted as a must have feature by some of the major browsers makers. So what is the likelihood that future ISPs might seek to push privacy as a selling point for their services in order to attract those users who have been, or do not wish to be, stung by legal notices or prosecution? That would be most interesting to see.
In conclusion, it appears that one fight could help open up the field for competitive innovation, with great opportunities for both winners and end-users, while the other fight now seems more and more like a defensive rearguard action that could end-up stifling the more innovative go-to-market models necessary for survival in a changing environment. I leave it up to you to guess which is which.
Note: Originally published in Capgemini’s Technology blog at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2008/09/pick_your_fight_browser_wars_v.php