Re-intermediation – The Rise of the New Gatekeepers

Time for a new word: “re-intermediation”. The internet promised to get rid of intermediaries and put people and businesses in direct contact. Intermediaries such as travel agents, publishers or banks looked like gatekeepers providing little or no value, but in a position to charge undue prices. With the internet, they could be by-passed and the world would be free and open. “Disintermediation” was all the rage. Except a few decades into the digital society, the irony is that new gatekeepers came instead, this time global and more powerful: internet platforms or cloud giants. Network effects and the “winner-takes-all”-dynamics of digital markets have brought niche monopolies that replicate the familiar pattern of making the rules with little or no influence for businesses, creators or citizens. Time to talk about “re-intermediation”.

Network neutrality, Digital Single Market and labour automation are three hot topics in European policy at the moment and very much at the heart of Netopia’s question on the digital society. All three are in the focus of Netopia’s coverage within the next weeks.

Netopia’s report The Citizens Internet by Ralf Grötker brings a fresh angle to the conversation on network neutrality. What if we look at the citizens rather than the technology as we approach this subject? Launch in Berlin last week and Brussels Tuesday. Please join us!

This is a slightly edited version of Netopia’s newsletter from March 25th 2015.