A reporter for TechCrunch observed, “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”
Indeed, digital media exhibits a similar absence. Netflix, the world’s largest video hub, allows me to watch a movie without owning it. Spotify, the largest music streaming company, lets me listen to whatever music I want without owning any of it. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited enables me to read any book in its 800,000-volume library without owning books, and PlayStation Now lets me play games without purchasing them.
Every year I own less of what I use. Possession is not as important as it once was. Accessing is more important than ever.
“Pretend you live inside the world’s largest rental store. Why would you own anything? You can borrow whatever you need within arm’s reach. Instant borrowing gives you most of the benefits of owning and few of its disadvantages. You have no responsibility to clean, to repair, to store, to sort, to insure, to upgrade, to maintain.
What if this rental store were a magical cupboard, a kind of Mary Poppins carpetbag, where an endless selection of gear was crammed into a bottomless container? All you have to do is knock on the outside and summon an item, and abracadabra—there it is. Advanced technology has enabled this magical rental store. It’s the internet/ web/ phone world. Its virtual cupboards are infinite. In this maximal rental store the most ordinary citizen can get hold of a good or service as fast as if they possessed it.
Access is so superior to ownership in many ways that it is driving the frontiers of the economy.”