The Law of Internet Intermediaries: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Info/Law 2013-06-18

I have a short essay, Middlemen, up at the Florida Law Review Forum. It’s a response to Jacqui Lipton‘s thought-provoking article, Law of the Intermediated Information Exchange (bonus: first page is at 1337!). And, it has a footnote about turtles. Here’s the introduction:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The Internet was supposed to mean the death of middlemen. Intermediaries would fade into irrelevance, then extinction, with the advent of universal connectivity and many-to-many communication. The list of predicted victims was lengthy: record labels, newspapers, department stores, travel agents, stockbrokers, computer stores, and banks all confronted desuetude. Most commentators lauded the coming obsolescence as empowering consumers and achieving greater efficiency; a few bemoaned it. But disintermediation was inevitable.

Jacqueline Lipton’s article “Law of the Intermediated Information Exchange” shows how foolish that conclusion was. Tower Records and Borders bookstores folded, and newspapers struggle to survive. But music fans don’t buy directly from Universal Music or Sony Music—they get the latest Jay-Z or Muse tracks from Apple’s iTunes Music Store. College students surf Craigslist to find listings of apartments for rent. News junkies stay glued to Reddit, or Twitter. Kayak collects cheap flight reservations for us. And Google helps us find . . . everything. We simply swapped one set of middlemen for another.