Civilizing the Frontier

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-11-19 Print this article Print

Civilizing the Frontier

Doing business on a frontier demands a high degree of self-sufficiency. At one time or another, merchants have created their own currency; companies have built and maintained their own roads; mining operations have constructed and owned entire towns.

The Internet is ready to move beyond such frontier economics to become a place where people can do business without having to do it all themselves—where even a tightly focused service provider can find enough of a clientele to make it a viable concern.

A thriving ecology of service providers reduces the barriers to entry for everyone else who wants to sell on the Net. The more service a company can buy, instead of performing for itself, the more that company can focus on doing what it does best.

This principle is at least as old as Adam Smiths 1776 essay on the economics of mass-producing pins. The questions are how and when, not whether or not the service providers will become the true infrastructure of e-markets.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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