November 08, 2002
Knowledge un-sharing on the Internet: Reversed extranets

One of my Moreover subscriptions alerted me to a potentially interesting article about wi-fi technology/politics from the McKinsey Quarterly magazine this morning: Wi-Fi goes to Washington. However, clicking on the link from my PC (at the time on our office LAN as opposed to from home/hotel), I got redirected to a "denied"-page telling me the article is unavailable for competitors of McKinsey.

I'm guessing they are systematically banning IP addresses from competitor's networks/proxy servers, but this is the first time I've seen information (presumably) made freely available on the net in general systematically blocked for subgroups of the online population;

Exceptions/variations I've seen on a similar theme before are things like the export of PGP attempted to be narrowed down across US borders or IP-derived location-specific services, but I've never seen this on an organization-to-organization basis? It's like "reversed" extranet functionality?

What would a publisher enforcing such a policy do if an employee of a competitor accessed a "blocked" document out of personal interest from home, registering with a personal mail address or similar? There seem to be no legal restrictions mentioned on the denied-page?

Has anyone seen something similar elsewhere? What do you think about it?

[I will reserve my right to not state an opinion on this matter as I out of general principle try to keep weblog- and work-issues separate, and my employer's identity unpublished. Thanks.]

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McKinsey, you may recall, famously predicted that the American market for mobile phones by 2000 would be 900,000 units (the actual figure was 70m). Having failed to grasp the dynamics of one emerging technology, it comes as no surprise to me to find them failing to grasp another.

The underlying assumption in the new economy is that there is a perfect market for information: information is freely available to all (through instantly searchable networked spaces) and distinction is achieved, not by hoarding it, but by acting upon it better than the next person.

A further underlying assumption is that the knowledge based market is effectively unbounded, and that individual players obtain greater profits by increasing the market's overall size through (albeit qualified) cooperation with one another, rather than by simply increasing their share of it.

By attempting to hoard it, they reveal (to me at least) at best an insecure mindset, and at worst the mindset of a company that can't be relied upon to bring anything fresh to my thinking about new technology.

Then again, businesses founded on "new economy" principles are hardly thriving, so maybe McK have got it figured out, after all. ;)

Posted by: Rich on November 9, 2002 05:06 PM

What a silly idea! Obviously McK does not have much clue about how the Internet works. Have you tried using anonymizer.com or a proxy? I'll put something up about this on my blog as well.

Posted by: Martin Roell on November 9, 2002 10:37 PM

I used to work for BNTi, a firewall vendor. Back in 1996 or so, we noticed that Checkpoint software (another firewall vendor) had blocked access to their websites from all of our networks.

Of course they neglected to block our *home* addresses...

Oh, and where is this "new economy" you speak of? The Economy I know has been based on hoarding secrets and lying to consumers for at least a century...

Posted by: Harald on November 20, 2002 04:08 PM
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