ZapMail Redux: A Response
It’s funny. For quite some time, people have been saying 1984 has come upon us.
It took Clay Shirky — whose reputation is astonishingly well deserved — to prove people were right. 1984 is upon us — for in the year 1984, ZapMail, by FedEx, was brought unto the world. The basic idea was that you’d FedEx your document, only they wouldn’t actually send it — they’d buy a fax machine, and fax it for you. Delivery time would go from 24 hours to 2. Profit!
FedEx lost hundreds of millions of dollars before realizing businesses were just buying their own fax machines and abandoning the per-use charge(not to mention
the rather tremendous inefficiencies of having somebody physically transport a document so that it may eventually be electronically transported!)
It is 2003. Instead of fax, we have WiFi. The stakes are larger.
But little has changed.
I hope, perhaps expect — I rather lack the right to demand — that Clay Shirky’s recent
article “Customer-Owned Networks and ZapMail” be distributed at business schools across the world, if only for its
sheer grasp of historical perspective. Clay gets it.
I’ve some thoughts on his article (this was originally going to be a simple post on BoingBoing…it grew.)