Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Brands and behavior

You know, I was thinking yesterday that the shift from mom-and-pop places to large multinational branded operations is a really good thing in some ways. Yes, these places commit many moral atrocities, but from a consumer perspective, you can be pretty sure that you get the product or service as advertised and that you won't be cheated, because if you are cheated, you have a massive target to aim for. A couple of lawsuits from dissatisfied customers and a large corporation can lose millions even if the suits are thrown out (stock price drops, customers shopping elsewhere, loss of interest in business partnerships, etc.). So these places really, really try to make you happy.

But there are other behavior patterns that large branded enterprises fall into that are not so desirable. Witness this morning's Slashdot article, Paypal Deals Blow To Freenet. Paypal is no longer allowing people to contribute to the Freenet project through their system. While they don't really give a good reason, I wouldn't be surprised if the association of the Freenet project with peer-to-peer file sharing and other activities of questionable legality made the Paypal people nervous of being accused of helping the process along. This extreme CYA attitude seems to be the norm rather than the exception. It certainly makes sense, but it somehow seems wrong.


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