Wikimania 2007 talk: “The Sharing Economy”

Talk by Joi Ito – “The Sharing Economy”.

Wants to have the .wiki TLD. Interested in the blogging revolution. Creative commons licenses.

We are very difficult as an audience! Very varied level of knowledge. Audience will argue back.

The Internet: “The Stupid Network” – David Isenberg (used in a paper); “Small pieces loosely joined” – David Weineberger (used in a book).

Internet created by small teams connecting together. When the Internet fails, it’s usually because of large companies and governments. The innovation is best when it is small pieces. Free software works because the cost of failure is very low – this allows ideas that would normally not be tried in large companies. E.g. Google was most exciting when it was small, and most innovative when it was small.

Professional versus Amateur:

  • The era of the professional had a large barrier to entry… We began to associate professional = good. Professionals are paid.
  • Amateur derives from the word “to love” – doing something because you love it. In English the perception is that amateur = low quality. There is a mismatch here.

Economists – think the more money you have, the happier you are. Utility function. The idea that you are trying to earn as much money as possible. People in the financial business associate intelligence with money. Yet often people are motivated more by factors that don’t have anything to do with money.

Also there is a difference between pleasure and happiness:


  • Drugs
  • Gambling
  • Winning lotto
  • Good weather

You can buy pleasure. We adjust to and quickly get used to pleasure.


  • More than enough is too much.
  • Comes from compassion – giving and receiving love.

You cannot buy happiness.

Amateurs make decisions based on happiness. Professionals maybe more based on pleasure.


  • Hollywood oversimplifies (Shock! Horror!). Pirates sometimes are not stealing; they are in fact fans that are addressing a need that is not being made (e.g localisations that don’t exist; movies which they simply cannot buy in their region).

There is a culture gap:

  • Remix – combining pre-existing material in new and interesting ways
  • E.g. the grey album (black album + the white album)
  • We are currently stifling free speech of remixing video.

Unregulated uses of things, like books – things can currently do:

  • Read
  • Sell
  • Sleep on a book
  • Burn a book
  • Fair use (tiny little grey zone)

Mostly only people who were copying a book and selling it were triggering copyright law.
Most uses of books are free, and unregulated.
Most regulated uses were commercial.

There is a big difference when we go from analogue to digital. Suddenly we are triggering copyright law all the time, because with digital material things get copied ALL the time, and indeed NEED to be copied to work. E.g. a DVD is copied into memory to be displayed; a web site’s pages are copied over the network and into memory when it is displayed in your browser. In the digital world, copies are EVERYWHERE and are REQUIRED for it to work.

Law + Technology = DRM.

Amazon is saying things like “let’s charge per page or per view”.

Now people are saying, “let’s charge second hand book stores”. It’s a creeping form of greed. Companies are not about happiness, they are about money.

There are also people who want “no rights reserved”

Creative commons is in between these two ends of the spectrum.

Creative commons = “Open source for content”. It’s also a “user interface for copyright”.

CC non-commercial no-derivatives is NOT a free license – how can you say it’s free when there are so many restrictions and regulations? – can take this into court – has a legal code. Can add metadata to material to indicate the license restrictions.

With the Internet, want it to be open – it’s GOOD that your enemies and people you don’t agree with can use the Internet – it makes it a much more interesting place and a more useful thing.

Ensemble. The importance of diversity. How a few negative comments can damage group cohesion. How to get different people with very different backgrounds to work together. A sense of unity and shared purpose. A lot of this ensemble gets lost in mailing lists and IRC and the minutia of day-to-day remote stuff – it’s why conferences and get-together are so valuable.

People who work in an online community care about the rules WAY more than people in companies. Most employees will never read their company rules, or comment on them. Studies have found that paradoxically, places with more rules tend to have happier people (because people know where they stand and what’s acceptable). (Personal comment: There has a be a limit to rules otherwise, like the real legal system, ordinary people will need specialists / lawyers to navigate all the rules. E.g. I’m personal slightly doubtful that more rules and guidelines would be constructive for the English Wikipedia).