Anyone can say and do almost anything without restraint. An uncanny knack of circumventing restraint attempted by conventional societies and a staggering ability to accept and use new technologies. Expectations of Internet users run ahead of those who stand between them and the Internet Society. Among members of the Internet Society, traditional companies have to be able to react as quickly. Creating an Internet reputation is hard for most directors of companies.
There is two other characteristic. The members of this society have an uncanny knack of circumventing restraint attempted by conventional societies and a staggering ability to accept and use new technologies.
As in any society, there are hierarchies, people who contribute and people who operate outside its accepted laws. The Internet Society hierarchies and laws are not the same leaders, laws or law makers that exist in other societies. Many Internet users have not heard of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the prime minister of France or the head of the Bundesbank. Few could name the incumbents. Their relevance to the Internet Society is at best marginal. Mention AOL, offering access to this society’s gods, Yahoo, which makes and applies rules for access or Bill Gates, who has economic clout to affect all, and there will be immediate opinion, if not reaction.
Established institutions are quickly marginalised by the Internet Society. But it can make reputations and fortunes for its own. When it works in concert with capitalism or democracy, it is very powerful. These issues are discussed in greater depth in the
marketing and activism chapters. One topical case study will suffice for now.
There are many stories about extraordinary things about the Internet. Certainly it is fast moving. It is said that a year in the Internet is equivalent to five years in other forms of commerce.
In July 1999, BT, the British telecommunications company with a telephone line into almost every home in the country, said that it was going to continue to charge people for access to the Internet (in addition to charging for the associated telephone line
rental and line time). Ten month old and loss making Freeserve, a subsidiary of electrical retailer Dixons offering Internet access for free was valued at over £2billion when it floated on the UK stock exchange. BT had 115,000 Internet subscribers and
Freeserve 1.2 million.
In every other form of commerce, a company has difficulty coming to the market in under five years. This flotation happened in less than a year. In every other form of commerce it is difficult achieving a share premium when you are a loss making corporation. Freeserve created a brand presence and market penetration of millions in a fifth of the time it takes most companies to achieve a 43% share price premium.
Freeserve did use its influence in the Internet Society. It offered users of its services shares in the company on flotation. It informed a large proportion of the 4.63 million share owning Internet Society members aged 25 to 34 in the UK. They all have a
computer at home, predominantly accept on-line news. They have a penchant for regular exchanges of views and opinions with local and international members of the Internet Society. Of course Freesrve’s Internet Society influence stretched to other UK
demographic groups and, this is the Internet after all, to every country in the world.
The difference in thinking is between BT1, supplier of access to information and Freeserve giving access to a fashionable, global, free wheeling, fast changing and dynamic society.
Expectations of Internet users run ahead of those who stand between them and the Internet Society. They also help, aid and support those people and companies who help them enjoy their lifestyle.
Being of the Internet Society was dramatically important for Freeserve. Its Internet reputation and its promotion was masterly and offered high cash returns in its parallel capitalist society.
This one small example serves to show the speed at which the Internet operates and that Internet reputation is important. This different form of reputation, seems to defy the laws of other established societies and operates in a different culture. Like religion
and capitalism, the Internet can operate as a parallel society. Because the Internet is hugely driven by change, Freeserve has to work five times faster than its traditional commercial competitors to sustain its reputation.
Equally, among members of the Internet Society, traditional companies have to be able to react as quickly. They start at a disadvantage. They are not of the Internet Society. They started life in the slow, old, parallel, commercial market place. The
reputation manager of every company now has a duty to point out and facilitate rapid reaction to the demands of the Internet Society. Both on-line and off line reputation depends on it.
Creating an Internet reputation is harder for most directors of companies. Many of them have yet to find the ‘on’ button. They have no choice. The Internet Society is growing very fast. UK access to the Internet in March 1999 was growing at the rate of
10,600 people a day according to NOP. It also reported four in ten children were already on-line by July 1999.