The Online Gold Rush - A Great Wild West Story

What comes to mind when you think of the Wild West? Gun totting outlaw gangs, cowboys, stern sheriffs, musky saloons, desperate land and gold rushes....

This all sounds like America of the 1800s which is the era in which TV shows like HBO's Deadwood are set.

Strange as it sounds, however, this world is not a million miles away from cyberspace. Online businesses are in a constant state of one-upmanship and bravado similar to rival cowboy outfits. The online world transcends international boundaries so legal issues can become very confused leading to an almost lawless environment where byte-tottin' gangs run wild looking for gold.

For instance, Steve Jobs' comments about Google and Adobe are the perfect example of an old style bar-room rant. I could imagine him in the Wild West with all his Apple cohorts heckling his Google and Adobe counterparts on the other side of the bar.

"You darn two-bit Google hoodlums!" or
"You lazy Adobe go-fo-nuthins!" he would probably say.

I guess he would also be jumping around with an iPad in one hand and a glass of the strongest whiskey possible in the other. Google's Brin, Page and Schmidt would be sitting in the corner of the bar grumbling to themselves in multi-coloured Stetson hats emblazoned with the words 'Don't be evil'.

Of course the weapons of the online era are not guns but hardware, web apps and online business models and there is much money (gold) to be made. Google is looking to bring some law and order with its evolving web apps and advertising models but recently stepped on rival turf with the announcement of the Nexus One phone.

This was treated as an act of disrespect by Apple and a challenge to Apple's successful iPhone. Apple wants to make it clear that it 'runs the town' as far hardware goes and when you split you will split Apple's way. However, there is now talk of a gPad to rival Apple's iPad and this will only cause more unrest in the town.

Apple have also been increasing unhappy with the Adobe outfit. In their eyes they seem to be just an unreliable bunch of layabouts that spend all day in the saloon drinking whisky.

Of course there is also the Microsoft outfit too and they have been there for a long time. They used to 'run the town' pretty much outright once. Unfortunately, the Google outfit appeared from over the hill just over ten years ago and since then they have been muscling in all the rackets in the town. From operating systems, email and office applications Microsoft found themselves losing ground and have precious gold taken away from them. They have not been happy but struck back at the very heart of the Google outfit with the Bing search engine.

Over the hill there is a new town being built and a new gold rush. Two big outfits have emerged namely Twitter and Facebook. They have started making a lot of noise in their saloons too but this is the subject for another online Wild West tale.

This all makes for some interesting outlaw rivalries and whatever happens the online gold rush is here to stay. Only time will tell who gets to be sheriff (if one appears) but in the meantime there will be plenty of interesting bar-room brawls to follow this year in the Wild West of cyberspace.