The Second Machine Age

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

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a software programmer who writes a slightly better mapping application—one that loads a little faster, has slightly more complete data, or prettier icons—might completely dominate a market. There would likely be little, if any, demand for the tenth-best mapping application, even it got the job done almost as well. This is relative performance. People will not spend time or effort on the tenth-best product when they have access to the best. And this is not a case where quantity can make up for quality: ten mediocre mapping tools are no substitute for one good one. When consumers care mostly about relative performance, even a small difference in skill or effort or luck can lead to a thousand-fold or million-fold difference in earnings. There were a lot of traffic apps in the marketplace in 2013, but Google only judged one, Waze, worth buying for over one billion dollars