This piece was a thought provoking look at infrastructure and the many different ways to analyze it. From just the practical side of things, I hadn’t really considered things like funding to actually be a part of infrastructure, although, clearly, it is.
As fascinating as the various discussions of infrastructure here were, I’m not going to focus on them. This article got me to thinking about what is and isn’t defined as infrastructure.
Let’s take Google as an example. Is Google internet infrastructure? I would argue “yes.” Maybe not in the traditional sense, but, still.
Google is more than just a search engine, though its role as the most prominent search engine out there puts it in this category for me. Google also powers so many other things (Chrome, Google docs, for instance, and a variety of other apps). A person’s entire online existence can be curated via Google.
The counterargument might be that Google isn’t necessary. There are alternatives to everything it offers, Bing for searches, Firefox for browsing, etc. So, while you CAN manage your entire online experience through Google, you don’t have to.
While this is true, much of the infrastructure out there is optional. Most of us opt to use it, but it isn’t required. So, I tend to think of Google as online infrastructure.
Let’s talk social media. Is a site like Facebook infrastructure? This isn’t nearly as clear cut (in my opinion).
For one thing, while billions of people use FB, it doesn’t do the things that Google does. FB doesn’t offer a competing search engine or anything like Google docs (at least that I’m aware of).
I’m not saying that FB isn’t important. It is on many levels, from the personal (staying in touch with people far away) to the business world (look at all these people! they have money to spend!) to the academic (data analysis and collect — which also happens in the business world part of FB). I’m just saying it differs significantly from Google. So, while I think that Google should be considered internet infrastructure, I don;t think FB should.
N.B.: The other articles may take up this subject. I haven’t gotten to them yet. I was just reacting to this one.