Interesting Article…

From the Sunday New York Times about the struggles of Web 2.0 companies in foreign countries. (Here it is) Apparently, a lot of sites are struggling to turn a profit–or even break even–in many markets. The ad rates for countries in Africa, the Middle East and much of Asia are much lower, reflecting the economic realities of the countries themselves. But because of technological limitations, servers and bandwidth are much more expensive. Unfortunately, the grand vision of a free web for all may be in jeopardy thanks to the fact that the web is still based in the real world.

The consequences of this for a local audience are fairly minimal–the business structure of companies like YouTube and Facebook has proven to be extremely successful in America. But abroad things are more questionable, and while major sites will probably still be safe, certain companies don’t have the resources to maintain a fully international audience (the article mentioned Veoh, which is a video-sharing site). In fact, YouTube may lose over $400 million in the international market this year, and if that does happen there may indeed be severe repercussions.

We’ll have to wait and see what this will amount to. But dreams of a global, utopian internet, may be in jeopardy. We may be entering into a new kind of European priviledge, one that revolves around superior access to the web. And if these trends continue, many countries on the technological forefront may start running into some unforeseen obstacles–unless bandwidth rates decrease, the United States may have a monopoly on the creation and proliferation of user-generated sites, meaning innovation could be stifled throughout a large portion of the world.

Maybe the article paints a bleaker picture than is warranted. It’s hard to imagine Facebook making their site unavailable in markets as large as India. But even if the fears presented here are unfounded, it’s important to take this opportunity to really evaluate the realities of the situation. Internet for all may not be such an easily realized ambition after all. Disparities of wealth between nations cannot be avoided, even in the virtual realm. This should be a wake up call to let people know that the internet cannot exist independently. The Real World must be taken into account.

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