So this is interesting. Earlier today, I was reading this New York Times report of the Google settlement with the FTC. A piece of that report is no longer online, but I am reproducing it here:
“Compared to almost any other market in the history of antitrust regulation, online search has effectively zero barriers to entry,” Mr. Wyden said.
This would be Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who has done quite a bit of legislating on the internet and technology issues. But something about his statement stuck out to me – the assumption of “zero barriers to entry”.
As we know in publishing, it is all too easy to assume ease (or difficulty) when it comes to digital anything. For years pundits told consumers that ebooks should be priced very low because “they cost nothing to make”. There are plenty of people who are actually doing the work of ebook production and conversion who would beg to differ. They might cost nothing to ship, but shipping is not making, and was never the biggest manufacturing cost in the first place.
And as I pointed out yesterday, while online search is not complicated, it is in fact very arduous. It requires a lot of resources, a lot of time (iterative time, allowing the algorithms to do their work and organically surface results), and therefore a lot of capital. No, it’s not a railroad. But who’s trying to break into the railroad business these days?