User-Capitalized Networks

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Yochai Benkler on the distribution of capital in peer production, taking the form of user-capitalization:

"Q: How is the combination of these technologies turning that behavior into something economically valuable?

A: You can build platforms and tools that assume that what you're doing is facilitating sharing -- as opposed to producing a finished product to a consumer. Look at Skype. It has built a platform that allows us to share our PCs' excess capacity to produce connectivity. No one has built a network for Skype -- all the million or 2 million people online are contributing resources. There's no commercial transaction between us. Just imagine trying to build a global voice-over-IP [VoIP] network. The cost would be unimaginable. The costs are unimaginable, except they're borne by a million or 2 million different people instead of by a company. It hasn't become less capital-intensive. The way in which it's financed has changed. It's user-capitalized networks." (