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Access Trumps Ownership


In 'We Think', Charles Leadbetter said: "In the past you were what you owned. Now you are what you share". The principle that access trumps ownership is often difficult for content owners, who have long built value on control, copyright and tangible assets, to get their heads around.

Recently, there seems to have been a raft of web start-ups that make the most of what the web is really good at - connecting one person with a problem to another with the solution to that problem – bringing peer-to-peer solutions to everyday, real-world situations. Like Streetbank ('allows you to enjoy all the things within 1000 yards that your neighbours are willing to share'), and Neighbourgoods ('Save money and resources by sharing stuff with your friends'), and ShareSomeSugar ('why buy when you can borrow?'), and SnapGoods ('own less, do more').

There's a lot to like about models like this. All the good things that come from keeping it small, yet the more people that get involved the better it works. And I believe that one of the best things we can do for the environment is to reduce wasteful consumption. Each person, buying stuff they only use occasionally, is inefficient (does everyone in your street really need their own lawnmower?). As Ron Williams, the founder of Snapgoods, puts it:

"There is a growing cultural awareness that you don't always get enjoyment out of hyperconsumption. The notion of ownership as the barrier between you and what you need is outdated"

But I also like the fact that ideas like this bring communities together. Using these services solves an immediate problem for you, but it also helps you get to know your neighbours. The sense of community it builds is an indirect reward. In other words, feeling part of a community is a strong motivator in itself. There's often talk of how people spending time in front of screens gets in the way of face-to-face interaction when actually, one of the great benefits of the web is in bringing people together in the real world.

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