Stories by Nicholas G. Carr

Giant Steps

In my last column, I discussed the difficulties of sustaining a competitive advantage on the Internet, where business models can easily be replicated or rendered obsolete. Instead of searching for enduring advantages, I argued, you need to seek "leverageable" advantages - privileged market positions that can be used as stepping stones to other privileged positions. Shifting from one business model to another is tough. But companies like Edu.com, Aveo and Inktomi are doing it adeptly. In this column, I review four practical lessons to be learned from their experiences.

Bonfire of the Brands

A few weeks ago I was in the mood to get lost in a good page-turner. I knew that crime-writer Scott Turow had a new novel out, so I went to Amazon.com to get a copy. I was about to click on the Order button when I noticed that the book, Personal Injuries, had received a rating of just two and a half stars.

The Myth of Scalability

At the start of the Christmas shopping season in early November, Toys "R" Us launched a big promotion for its Web site. For a limited time, it announced, it was offering $10 off all online purchases, along with free shipping. A sucker for a bargain, I decided to click over and pick up some gifts. A few hundred thousand other people apparently had the same idea. For three days, I was unable to access the site. The best I could get was an image of Geoffrey the Giraffe thanking me for my patience.

Market Place