, , ,

Alfred Thayer Mahan was the military strategist whose theories of how power works influenced the creation of the world’s navies. His book The Influence of Sea Power Upon History continues to have major impact on our world. His books and theories are classics residing beside the presently more famous with the public – Sun Tzu and his Art of War. Both of these strategists aim to dominate military positions that enable control of essential materials over vast areas. Mahan would aim to control choke points to transportation such as the Straits of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Panama Canal, the Malay Channels, but there are other choke points to transportation like the Hawaiian Islands, Bermuda, or Cape Town, which are in open areas but when held prevent direct movement between distant places. The basic point is to discover what the strategic necessities of the contending parties really are and then contrive to possess them. Politically, that means to lure the opposition away from even understanding what is valuable and then quietly acquiring possession of what is seen as a trivial thing. The object being to gain hegemony and then accepted monopoly of the essentials.

How would Mahan approach the internet? What would he see as the essentials to control that vast network which now covers the Earth much as the ocean covered it when he was writing? What are the choke points and what are the vast open areas with almost invisible islands of controllable something which dominate vast areas? Some of these are already dominated and have created virtual continents of informational stuff. Intel grabbed the microprocessor, Microsoft grabbed the operating system, Netscape the browser, Google the search, FaceBook the social network, Twitter, Skype, Netflix, iPhone, … etc. What apps that are now being developed will find those sweet spots that define choke points? Will the shotgun approach hit them by chance, or will someone come close, see what’s happening and then refine their product and legal protections to dominate it? Wikipedia’s precursors were failures until, it seems by dumb luck and persistence, the right combination of factors clicked.

Once a new and useful idea is discovered many people pursue it as ideas are free for everyone to use and enjoy, and soon some variations are found which work better than others. Some people in the general public are not interested in the development of the idea but in the useful applications of the idea enables. But, they find that although it is useful it is difficult to make work well and they tell the developers their problems but are generally rebuffed because the creators are off on a new adventure and can’t be bothered with silly details.

Someone realizes that if they made the idea easier to use it would be used by more people. Although it will take effort to make these improvements once done they will have a product they can sell for profit. But, why bother with the development unless they have exclusive right to sell, thus the need of patent protection. Unfortunately, getting a patent costs a lot of money, nowadays, so only those willing to go into debt are able to get a patent. A lender must be found who is willing to take monetary risks, but they want a big payoff for their risk and must be convinced the idea will work before they are willing to take the risk.

Unfortunately, the world-wide web itself has been profitable for very few people and Google scarfs up most of the profits. Most people with new ideas, even good ones, are compelled to get a few dribbles from AdSense and there isn’t a way to make even a living wage out of the internet. Watching TV I have several times seen people interviewed who had an idea go viral and who got millions of hits. But, they got virtually zero money. Amongst my friends I know a man who had a Wall Street Journal article about his success, but who earned almost zero cash.  What is required to make substantial money is to make a limited access point to the specialized content on the internet.

The path to monetary success on the internet is to have a closed pipe of functionality. It is linked to the searchable web with an HTML page, but that is only a link to the new program which is separate. It is sometimes called a pipe, or a silo and it is exclusive. The Google search gives access to your widgets, your program, your idea, your business, but your thing is separate from the web. You must find a way to personalize your idea and make it isolated from the rest of the world before you can own it. The silo lets you lock others out so you can make money. Also, locking others out makes it possible to continue refining your idea so that it becomes useful to more people.

Ultimately what people want if for their personal life to be better – usually social entertainment. After discovering an idea the customer believes will help them to that end, they want to be able to integrate it into their life so it functions perfectly as expected without any further thought or effort. When your idea has achieved perfection it will be built into everyone’s life. If they use your idea and you have designed it in such a way that you get a trickle of cash coming into your pockets and no one elses, you can make real money. This is a general strategy for you to build upon your own island in the sea of the internet.

Make your exclusive widget simple, simpler, simplest and totally automatic.