The European’s look like they’re going to be leading the way for developing the digital economy. Their latest initiative is to try and extend the existing single market for goods and services into the digital world. It’s something that I believe very strongly in as being essential for growing economies onto the digital world.
It’s important, already millions of people rely on the internet to make a living and it makes sense to keep developing this. Yet there are still some strange and restrictive practices which persevere in the digital world which would never be allowed in the physical one. Take for instance my last digital purchase, a subscription to the awesome online site of Hulu which is home to most of my favorite shows. The subscription allows me full access from cable, or from any digital device I own.
It’s wonderful for me who travels a lot and spends time on my own in boring hotels, an online subscription to Hulu seemed just the ticket. Except often it doesn’t actually work, cross over the border to Canada and my Hulu subscription simply stops working – couple of miles over the border and it’s useless. All I get is sorry this service is not available in Canada, which seems crazy. It’s the same in the UK, enjoy the BBC from anywhere you like but cross over to Dublin and you’ll be puzzling why there’s no BBC iPlayer in Ireland. There are examples in every country in the world, buy something online which is effectively digital travel over a border and it doesn’t work.
It’s crazy, you don’t expect your phone, your laptop or camera to stop working so why should a perfectly legitimate digital subscription. Fortunately someone in Europe has seen how stupid this is and is trying to change the situation by extending their single market model to the digital world. It’s not going to be easy though, it’s actually more complicated than you can imagine.
The biggest issue is that of the way media especially is licensed, on a country by country basis. Take for example Netflix, although they offer a global subscription the films you can watch vary hugely depending on which country you are in. The US version has thousands more films because it’s the biggest market, so you’ll get way more value when you’re in the USA than perhaps the French version of Netflix. It’s hardly surprising people use tools and buy IP addresses in different countries!
It’s going to take some time, but they’re making a start by trying to implement the standards. The basic premise is that wheatever you buy in one European country digitally is also available in any other country too. It makes perfect sense, will simplify the market place and hopefully will expand the scope of the digital market in Europe at least. Don’t worry though I’m sure our own internet guru in power Mr Trump is looking at something very similar too.