The Economist reported Another Digital Gold Rush. Similar to LinkedIn's recent IPO, when share prices repeatedly increased. . .and wherever the ceiling may be, such companies are signs of the times. Today's virtual gold rushes echo those of the 19th century in three ways:
- Enthusiasm: Both gold rushes drew crowds because the masses yearned for something of value, as well as growing that value for the long-term. In the digital gold rush, the getting lies in a product or service that helps people get things done, whether it's taking action or being entertained. Having an idea and making it real is worth every claim of excitement. There's no "gold-bearing" discovery without all the modern equivalents of panning, washing and mining.
- Low Barrier to Entry: Participation in the original gold rush required only a pan and a good spot. Tools for the digital gold rush are comparable—instead of a pan, there's a computer. Instead of a spot, there's a partition of server space. This digital toolkit offers a fairly low barrier to entry for the bootstrapped participant. Like its physical counterpart, the digital gold rush is a "free for all" only more so, given the stream bend's as long as the virtual shelf.
- Keeping the Dream Alive: Initially, the search of gold was driven by a desire for something better. In the digital realm, it's something faster, simpler, cheaper (or priced not to participate "in a race to the bottom"). People want all three when it comes to the digital gold rush. Economics aside, a gold rush is another way of holding onto a dream without letting it dry up. Every pixel, like every mineral, counts.
Whether physical or digital, any gold rush remains vulnerable amidst the fever of irrational exuberance matched by inflated expectations.