I barely know what I'm talking about here. It's mostly intuitive. I will continue to study the issue until I know more, but it helps to work out my thinking in the process of writing. Bear with me.
I'm thinking about real estate web networks. Some of my confusion comes from not knowing what stage of development RE web networks are in. Years ago, Kevin Kelly wrote a book, New Rules for the New Economy , in which he addressed the evolution of web networks. Here is an excerpt:
Every network technology follows a natural life cycle, roughly broken into three stages:
A firm's strategy will depend on what phase a network is in.
The prestandard phase is the most exciting. This period is marked by tremendous innovation, high hopes, and grand ambition. "Aha!" ideas flow readily. Since there are no experts, everyone can compete, and it seems as if everyone does. Easy entry into the field draws myriad players. For instance, when telephone networks began, there were few standards and many contenders. In 1899, there were 2,000 local telephone firms in the American telephone network, many of them running with their own standards of transmission. In a similar vein, in the 1890s, electricity came in a variety of voltages and frequencies. Each local power plant chose one of many competing standards for electrical power. Transportation networks, ditto. As late in the railroad era as 1880, thousands of railway companies did not share a universal gauge.
Two examples of networks in the prestandard stage today are online video and e-money. You have the choice of many competing protocols with equal prospects. With both domains, the uncertainty level is high, but the consequences of being wrong are minimal. Little is locked in, so it's easy to change.
Networks in the fluid phase have a different dynamic. The plethora of choices in the prestandard phase gradually reduces to two or three. Allegiances are mobile, and drift over time. During this period, networks demand the strongest commitment to their survival. Participants have to feed the web of their choice first, and the narrowing of choices allows substantial investment to spur rapid growth. The effects of plentitude and increasing returns kick in-more breeds more. Feeding the web on any of several standards still produces gains for all participants. Yet it is inevitable that only one standard will ultimately prevail while the other ones fail. The uncertainty level is nearly as high as during the prestandard phase, but the risks for being wrong are greater. Anyone who remembers the demise of 8-track audiotapes will appreciate the perils of this painful stage. Today such networks as digital photographs and desktop operating systems are in this fluid phase: Several well-established standards vie for ultimate dominance. Choose wisely!
The final stage in the life cycle of networks is the embedded phase, where one standard is so widely accepted that it becomes embedded in the fabric of the technology and is thereafter nearly impossible to dislodge-at least as long as the network exists.
How do I, a single agent in Savannah, fit in the network? In what stage is the network? Sometimes I think it's pre-standard, finding its way; then it seems to be fluid, shifting to a few choices; but, as far as I can see there is no embedded standard. Who do I, the single agent, feed? Where do I place my bets? I think I'm looking for the alliance that serves two purposes -an alliance with excellence and the best exposure and return for my business.
Numbers matter. Many users of a network can mean more opportunities - but, not necessarily. A network can have many of the wrong users and I am but another "bozo on the bus".
What is the network? Let's see - me, my cyber-bizfriends (I'm always open to referrals, BTW), my website provider, my website provider's partners, their partners, the sites where I advertise, the blogosphere I filter to find usefulness and inspiration, and consumers of real estate services. I suppose I could throw Google in there, but they are sort of an indirect connection to the network, the committee of cyber-gods who fiddle with fate.
Perhaps the connections will get stronger and clearer; perhaps someone smarter than I am will pull it all together - The Great Real Estate Web Network.
It's a fascinating journey within the web, searching, experimenting, waiting for the grand idea to unfold.
Mike from Savannah