Internet as a utility

Here’s a thought: the internet is a utility much like electricity.

It offers a service, information, just like electricity provides energy. We talk about the internet quite a bunch now because it is a new service, a novelty. As it becomes more pervasive in society, and thus deeper engrained in what we do, we will talk about it less so. It is fundamentally changing how we operate; because of this, I believe the electricity parallel is an apt one.

Those companies who understand how to put the internet at the core of what they do will prosper, while those who do not will likely not fair well. It is very rarely this days I come across a business that does not use electricity.

Just a thought.


Shane Lofgren November 30, 2008 Reply

The internet and the information it provides, are more complex than the energy electricity provides. I agree that better information can make just about every activity more productive, but only the right information, which is a very tricky question. For the most part, there is no right or wrong electricity (unless you’re taking your American appliances to Europe) and energy is a fairly straightforward thing.

It would be hard to set up a utility company that provides information like GE provides me with power, because they would only be useful if they provided GOOD information. While that’s certainly conceivable (that’s what Google does, right?), it’s a lot more complex and I doubt provision of information will ever become as homogeneous and commodified as provision of electricity. Also, realize that in order to provide information, you have to have a source of information, and generating information is a lot more complex than generating energy.

Furthermore, I think that the myriad uses of the internet will continue to take on myriad names, and I imagine that people will continue to talk about how they spent their time on a specific function of the internet (such as, “I spend waaaay too much time on Facebook”).

Still, I want to say that I think you’re definitely on to something. The main point I wanted to make is that you should avoid taking your analogy too far and oversimplifying the massive and growing complexity of the internet and information. However, companies that are able to provide information AND filter it so that it’s useful will be very important and powerful, I imagine. One only need to look at the size of Google, and realize that they’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.

Wendy December 3, 2008 Reply

I like your analogy of the internet as a utility… especially as a means of demonstrating how fundamental it is becoming in day to day operations. Electricity is generated from a number of difference sources, as is information… and people will harness that energy for different applications just as they will harness the information.

Daniel Bachhuber December 3, 2008 Reply

@Wendy, exactly. I think the parallel to electricity is at the core of the metaphor and conveys the idea well.

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