Once upon a time, in the 1990s and 2000s, the web and the internet were new and everything was going to be different forever. The web formed its own special exception to just about everything humanity had faced before. Personal relationships, private identity, and communication styles were all different “in cyberspace.” Logically, this also suggested the demise of the usual principles of business and economics.
What else could one conclude when, in the 2000s, a tiny blog could outdo an established media outlet? When startups seemed to come from nowhere, gain millions of users overnight, and make their founders and employees wealthier than old-school tycoons? The man who described the mood was author John Perry Barlow, who in the 1990s implored those interested in cyberspace to “imagine a place where trespassers leave no footprints, where goods can be stolen an infinite number of times and yet remain in the possession of their original owners, where businesses you never heard of can own the history of your personal affairs, where only children feel completely at home, where the physics is that of thought rather than things, and where everyone is as virtual as the shadows in Plato’s cave.”