The founder of America Online outlines some of the potentialities he sees emerging in the “Internet of Everything.”
Case now invests in startups through his company, Revolution, but he also served as chairman of AOL-Time Warner and was the founding chair of President Barack Obama's Startup America Partnership. This veteran of the earliest generation of Internet architects—along with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Andy Grove, and others—still seems well-qualified to forecast what's ahead. He offers his own business history, primarily based in marketing and dealmaking (at both Procter & Gamble and Pizza Hut), as evidence that he knows the ropes. He identifies three sectors of economic activity as foci of the coming “Third Wave” of the Internet: health care, education, and food production, processing, and transportation. Each of these represents a partnership between government and the private sector aimed at achieving some public good. Case puts himself forward as a facilitator for future entrepreneurs to find their ways through the related labyrinths of political disputes and regulatory entanglement. “Successful engagement with government will be difficult, and it will take a willingness to listen, a foundation of respect, and a lot of patience,” he writes. “But it can work. It has worked. I know from experience.” Case’s vision of the future is compelling, but he may be overreaching when he emphasizes functions for third-party apps that could undermine professionally qualified expertise and challenge employment, earnings, and benefits. Case sees such apps being able to track the health care data of individuals. The danger is that they make use of previous public investment in the Internet to undermine existing regulatory structures and labor practices. New labor legislation will need to be overhauled, he writes, in order to make the envisioned changes possible.
Opportunity beckons, and Case ably describes the possibilities, but the price of the chase may harm as well as benefit.