The internet has proved an extremely useful tool for marketing, financial management, stock control, administration, and the like. The next stage may be the development of a new business model that challenges the structure of corporate power.
Wild-eyed techno-prophets have been predicting such a shift in the balance of power since the early days of the web. It may be about to happen – and the internet Geeks themselves are leading the way...
Geeks loved the television series Firefly – but no one else did: the brilliant combination of the science fiction and Western genres was simply too intelligent for mainstream audiences. It was cancelled after only 14 episodes.
The Geeks rose in rebellion – successfully. A vociferous internet campaign failed to move hard-hearted television executives, but it demonstrated that there was a market there. This was enough to convince the studios to finance a feature film, Serenity, based on the series. It was successful, but not successful enough to revive the television show.
There the matter rested for six years – until last week, when Nathan Fillion, the star of the series, made a casual remark in an online interview. He said that if he won $300 million in the Lottery, he would use it to buy the rights to Firefly and put new episodes out on the internet.
Firefly fans live on the internet, and take what is said there very seriously. His words have been a call to arms by thousands of well-integrated AB networkers. Within hours a website was up and informed debate was taking place about how his suggestion could be implemented without necessarily winning the Lottery.
The significant point here is not the idea of putting out a major science fiction series online – which is far from original – or even using crowd sourcing to finance a project. But here the consumers of a product are using the internet as a mechanism to try to take control of its production. It is as if a giant co-operative is being organised via the web.
To be brutally honest, it is still unlikely that Firefly will take off again: the figures do not add up without that Lottery win. This is a shame: Firefly really was a cut above normal television. However, it may have an important legacy. The First Geek Uprising, which led to the feature film, showed how customers can use the internet to generate a market. This Second Uprising shows how a customer’s co-operative to take control of a product could be organised via the internet. It may not happen this time – but it will be happening a lot in future. The Browncoats will rise again!