Edited by Annabelle Gawer
Chapter 9: Open Platform Development and the Commercial Internet
Shane Greenstein1 INTRODUCTION The structure of the commercial Internet cut against the prevailing opinion of many executives in computing and communications in the mid-1990s. Unlike any successful commercial platform in the recent past, there was no profit-oriented organization providing platform leadership. Platform leadership was thought to be necessary for a thriving and growing market. For example, both Intel and Microsoft claimed that their actions helped move the PC market forward and helped make it more prosperous. The most vocal participants in Internet governance did not apologize for their unusual structure. Rather, they crowed about their independence. They reveled in the freedom of the Internet’s development processes and stressed that it placed comparatively fewer restrictions on the flow of technical information. Some even pointed to the PC market as a model of what they were trying to avoid. That difference of opinion has not declined with time. A debate persists today about how and why computing platforms thrive with and without commercial leadership. This chapter illuminates these issues by returning to the first market in which they arose and by re-examining the core issue: what would have been different about the Internet if it had been organized as a proprietary commercial platform? The answer comes in two steps. The first part of the chapter defines ‘open’ in the context of the time, namely, comparing Microsoft’s development of Windows 95 with similar processes for developing the Internet. While many of Microsoft’s practices as a proprietary software maker were not appreciably different from...
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