Starring in Your Own Constellation: Independent Identity in Networked Markets
The Cluetrain Manifesto, which went up on the Web seven years ago, is perhaps best known for ideas like "markets are conversations" and "hyperlinks subvert hierarchy". But perhaps Cluetrain's most important concept isn't in its long list of theses, but in the plain facts behind in a noun compound repeated three times in its preamble: networked marketplace. (The word "networked" appears 23 times and "market" 52 times.)
Cluetrain was about what the Internet does for markets. Four years later (Cluetrain co-author) David Weinberger and I posted World of Ends, which unpacked some points about the Net's end-to-end architecture. One was the Net's essentially open and ownerless (yet endlessly improvable) nature. Another was the location of action on the outside, or surface, of the Net at its ends, rather than in the middle.
Lately many advocates of the Net have been framing its all-ends nature as Net Neutrality. (David Weinberger says Net Neutrality is "formerly known as the end-to-end principle".) Net Neutrality is being debated all over the place right now, including by me. Since most of the debating is focused on political action (or inaction, or traction, take your pick), precious little is focused on business. Or, specifically, on the countless markets, new and old, that the Net facilitates and supports.
Those markets are comprised of ends, too. A market of ends is one that may include value chains, but is primarily comprised of what Richard Normann and Rafael Ramirez called value constellations. See "Designing Interactive Strategy: From Value Chain to Value Constellation", John Wiley & Sons, 1994, or the Harvard Business Review article that preceded it in 1993.) Thanks to the all-ends nature of the Net, we are all peers here. The powers we bring to the Net may differ widely, but at a fundamental level we all enjoy powers that far exceed anything we enjoyed in the disconnected world that preceded the networked one.
When Cluetrain (in the words of Chris Locke) said
we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it.
it turned marketing labels into pejoratives. It also served notice to the head ends of value chains that they are now also peers among stars in the collection of constellations we call the networked marketplace.
Now, seven years later, seems like a good time to talk about how we, as peers work in this marketplace. For example, how does the networked nature of markets change the way we relate? (And not just transact or converse.)
We don't know yet. Because the new models aren't there. We understand value chains extraordinarily well, because we've been operating with them for hundreds of years. Value constellations are still new.
I'd like to suggest, as long as we're in such protean territory, that the value constellations that will matter most in the long run are the ones that assemble around the individual market peers we call customers.
This is where I was going with The Intention Economy:
The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don't need advertising to make them.
The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don't need marketing to make Intention Markets.
The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don't have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer's purchase. Simple as that.
The Intention Economy is built around more than transactions. Conversations matter. So do relationships. So do reputation, authority and respect. Those virtues, however, are earned by sellers (as well as buyers) and not just "branded" by sellers on the minds of buyers like the symbols of ranchers burned on the hides of cattle.
The Intention Economy is about buyers finding sellers, not sellers finding (or "capturing") buyers.
In The Intention Economy, a car rental customer should be able to say to the car rental market, "I'll be skiing in Park City from March 20-25. I want to rent a 4-wheel drive SUV. I belong to Avis Wizard, Budget FastBreak and Hertz 1 Club. I don't want to pay up front for gas or get any insurance. What can any of you companies do for me?" and have the sellers compete for the buyer's business.
In order to operate in the Intention Economy in order to attract your own value constellation you will need the freedom and liberty to be independent and autonomous. For that you will require an independent identity. This is what we the Identity Gang and its fellow travelers have been working toward in our many conversations, and in our series of Internet Identity Workshops, the latest of which commences in just a few hours in Mountain View.
I would like to suggest to the gang, and to the rest of ya'll, that we need something in the identity-based market relationships that is akin to what Creative Commons brings to creative relationships. I don't know what it is yet, and I don't want to carry the analogy too far. But I do think we need something that puts buyers and sellers on a peered footing in the same way that Creative Commons licenses do for artists and users.
Note the role of intention in Creative Commons licenses. Seems more than coincidental to me.
Anyway, I have to get back on the road so I can make it to the workshop on time. Meanwhile, I wanted to get this thinking up and on the Web.