Schwartz borrows heavily from the work of British naturalist Charles Darwin, father of the theory of evolution, to explain the amazing development of the Web as a means of commerce. In anecdote after anecdote, he relates the ups and downs of a number of businesses that have attempted to triumph on the Internet. From their successes and their failures he draws conclusions that are as useful for those already on the Web as for those planning to venture into cyberspace for profit.
"Many more individuals of each species are born that can possibly survive:" Schwartz quotes Darwin as saying. He makes an apt comparison of the natural forces that shape evolution to the "brutal forces of the market" that dictate survival or extinction on the Web. Abundance or scarcity of food and resources, natural disasters, the appearance of predators and other phenomena dictate the evolution or disappearance of a species. In the digital jungle, abundance or scarcity of investment capital, sudden changes in consumer tastes, the appearance of fierce competitors and other factors save or doom Web businesses - the virtual species.
Schwartz offers a careful analysis of the evolution of commerce on the Web, with historical data that we are already forgetting because of the frenetic pace of the digital network. Among the tidbits: the Internet has existed, in different forms, since the end of the 1960s; the World Wide Web was conceived in 1989 as a means to exchange scientific information, itself evolving at a vertiginous pace; and serious electronic commerce made its first appearance in 1995.
The book lays out seven strategies for businesses on the Web, each in its own chapter. Among them: Creating a brand and giving it a reputation as a problem solver; allowing prices to fluctuate according to supply and demand, and getting partners to do the marketing.
One of the more useful aspects of the way Schwartz went about organizing the book is the survival guide at the end of each chapter, a compendium of conclusions and recommendations.
The comparison between digital evolution and that of living organisms is not as novel as might seem at first glance. One of the fiercest criticisms leveled at the neoliberalism that has characterized economic activity at the end of the century takes direct aim at its Darwinistic underpinnings. Its detractors make constant reference to economic or social Darwinism. The opening of markets, privatization, the internationalization of capital and speculation all have, in effect, resulted in a battle for survival that has driven many modern dinosaurs into oblivion, and other lumbering beasts, incapable of evolving, to the edge of extinction.
Schwartz takes this Darwinist vision of the modern market and applies it to its latest incarnation, the world of cyberspace. In a style reminiscent of other writers on business and economics, Schwartz does not focus on economic Darwinism from an ethical perspective, but rather as a tangible reality. He neither questions it nor defends it: He simply explains it. But that is precisely what gives his work its value. In exposing the ups and downs of businesses on the Internet, the author defines a natural course that an enterprise must follow if it is to have a reasonable expectation of success. "Rational businesses," he writes, "are those that are valued on their profits and on the increases in those profits." Schwartz not only provides a weapon to wield in the battle for survival, he brings a sense of balance and common sense to the natural selection of the electronic marketplace.
OTHER TITLES OF INTEREST
Beyond touristic attractions and travel agencies' cliches, Brazil is one of the richer countries in the world in natural resources and cultural diversity. Check out The Brazil Reader, published by Duke University Press, and written by Robert M. Levin, professor of history and director of Latin American Studies at the University of Miami, and John J. Crocitti, who is finishing his doctorate at UM. The authors paint an enormous fresco of Brazil, its history and its current ways through letters, photographs, court documents, interviews, essays, sociological analyses, poetry, etc. It's a useful guide to the origins, idiosyncrasies, and future of this fascinating and mysterious nation.
The manufacturing of personal computers is one of the largest industries in the world, eclipsed only by automobiles, energy and illegal drugs. The story behind this industry is told in Accidental Empires, by Robert X. Cringely, former war correspondent and professor at Stanford University and published by HarperBusiness. The history of the PC industry is brief but spectacular -- as is the counter-industry it has spawned, the world of hackers. In a book packed with analysis, anecdotes and gossip, Cringely explains how the quirks and neuroses of industry titans have shaped the world of computing. Cringely has written the saga of computing, from the birth of the transistor to the consolidation of modern digital empires.
Excerpt from Digital Darwinism:
An even more likely scenario is this one: Perhaps the dinosaurs in this metaphor are really the gigantic transnational corporations that have ruled over their respective industries for virtual eons. Perhaps the formation of the Web itself is the cataclysmic event in a much larger evolutionary scheme. Perhaps the global auto giants, the megabanks, the bigfoot telephone companies, the media conglomerates, the consumer product colossi, the finance and insurance amalgamations, the protected species of utilities, and the sprawling retail behemoths are the ones in danger of extinction. Or perhaps a few have enough smarts to adapt into something far more flexible, responsive, and innovative. Remarkably, this too has already started happening.
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|Author:||Alende, Andres Hernandez|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Oct 1, 1999|
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