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Content is not king

First Monday [February 5, 2001]


Abstract: The Internet is widely regarded as primarily a content delivery system. Yet historically, connectivity has mattered much more than content. Even on the Internet, content is not as important as is often claimed, since it is e-mail that is still the true "killer app."

The primacy of connectivity over content explains phenomena that have baffled wireless industry observers, such as the enthusiastic embrace of SMS (Short Message System) and the tepid reception of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol). Combined with statistics showing low cell phone usage, this also suggests that the 3G systems that are about to be introduced will serve primarily to stimulate more voice usage, not to provide Internet access.

For the wired Internet, the secondary role of content will likely mean that the dangers of balkanization are smaller than is often feared. Further, symmetrical links to the house are likely to be in greater demand than is usually realized. The huge sums being invested by carriers in content are misdirected.

Review by Terence K. Huwe:

The author studies recent advances in "connectivity" and evaluates whether Bill Gates was right when he famously stated that "content is king". He builds a strong case around the argument that the Internet is really "about connectivity", and that vast investments in content are misguided. The central point he makes is that newer technologies (such as Wireless Application Protocol and Short Message System) emphasize voice calls. This article is most interesting as an exercise in the technology-based deconstruction of Internet myth making, with the content myth as its subject. Essentially, the hazards of coining epithets at net-speed are many, because the development stream may shift pathways in a matter of months.

View Citation
Publication Year:2001
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: First Monday
Publication Info:Volume 6 Number 02
Issue:February 5, 2001
Publisher:First Monday
Notes:Andrew Odlyzko is Head of the Mathematics and Cryptography Research Departments at AT&T Labs. His professional interests include computational complexity, cryptography, number theory, combinatorics, coding theory, analysis, and probability theory, as well as data networks, electronic publishing, and electronic commerce.~Review courtesy of : Current Cites 12(2) (February 2001) ISSN: 1060-2356 Copyright 2001 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Subject: Internet access -- sociatal issues
Online access:
Record Number:8906
Last Update:2023-11-05 12:55:13
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00