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Why doesn't a better network end the sole rule of Facebook? The answer is v ∝ n ². The Metcalfesche law explains why the Internet is promoting monopolies.

Social Networks: Facebook's power is in this formula

Why doesn't a better network end the sole rule of Facebook? The answer is v ∝ n ². The Metcalfesche law explains why the Internet is promoting monopolies.

Social Networks: Facebook's power is in this formula
Content
  • Page 1 — Facebook's power is in this formula
  • Page 2 — more users, more attractive network
  • Page 3 — too many disadvantages due to a change
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    How powerful is Facebook really? This question was raised over and over again in debate about misuse of data by company Cambridge Analytica. The author and media scientist Tilman Baumgärtel tries to answer m – with a orem from early days of Internet.

    The audience also had to laugh at appearance of Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg before US Congress: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wants to get Zuckerberg to admit that his company has a monopoly. Zuckerberg winds up and talks around bush, which finally culminates in sentence: "For me it certainly does not feel that way." Cheerfulness among listeners.

    In fact: Facebook has no monopoly. Anyone can create ir own social media platform. And of course, re are alternatives to Facebook, from Ello to yodeling. The only problem is that none of se platforms at moment have slightest chance of seriously competing with Facebook.

    by Tilman Baumgärtel

    Is professor of media studies at Mainz University. The Reclam publishing house recently published his book "Texts on ory of Internet".

    Why that is, explains a orem from early days of Internet: Metcalfe's law. The law named after Web pioneer Robert Metcalfe is just as short as it is fundamental. It can not only make success of Facebook understandable, but also how Internet could become as fast as a global mass medium. It explains why driving service has to burn more money per month than any company in history of mankind. Why Internet economy is constantly producing monopolies like YouTube or Airbnb. And why devil in net always seems to shit on biggest pile. Even why sidewalks in large German cities are currently being delivered with tiny rental bicycles with orange rims makes Metcalfesche law obvious.

    Metcalfe, from which it originated, looks like an American football coach in retirement with 71 years now. At beginning of 1970s, he developed Ernet protocol at Harvard, on basis of which computers are connected to Internet today. The university still had him covered in defense of his dissertation. Neverless, he got a job at now legendary Research Center Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) of Kopiererherstellers Xerox. There, in 1970s, personal computer was developed as we know it today. Xerox's computer alto already had a graphical interface with Windows, icons and drop-down menus, as well as a mouse to herumzuklicken on se symbols. And he could be connected via Metcalfe's Ernet protocol with or computers to send electronic mail and files. Apple copied se features to its fabulously successful Macintosh computer, which came out 1984.

    At that time, Metcalfe had already founded his own company, which sold hardware and software to connect computers of all kinds via Ernet: 3com, short for computer, communication, compatibility. As an entrepreneur, however, he faced a problem that is also punch line of old joke: "Nothing was harder to sell than first phone." Who should you call?

    A simple formula

    Even with two owners, value of a phone is still relatively low. But more devices are connected to growing network, more useful phones become. The same was true for Ernetfähige computer.

    Metcalfe grabbed this insight into a simple formula, which would have secured him a place in history of computer science even if he hadn't invented Ernet protocol: v ∝ n ².

    The value (v) of a network is proportional to number of its users (s) squared. Because all users can communicate with everyone else, a network with ten users is not ten times as valuable as one with only one user, but a hundred times more valuable (10 ²).

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