Free to be P-to-P

Napster is a peer-to-peer? The tech sector is drowning in an alphabet soup of meaningless acronyms.

By Katharine Mieszkowski - Kaitlin Quistgaard
July 6, 2000 11:35PM (UTC)
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Attention Napster fans: Are you aware that when you trade songs on computers you're engaged in the hottest new business model to pique venture capitalists' interest? Yep, according to the Wall Street Journal, the "latest tech fad" turned buzzword is P-to-P, or peer-to-peer. You know, your computer talks to my computer and we share information without going through a middleman server anywhere. OK, we dumped the middleman, but God, don't let us lose anything else: You wouldn't want to be a participant in this "hot space" and be referred to as "just another PP."

We could have predicted that the tech sector would reduce a hip music lover's service to vaporous jargon. First there was B-to-C (business-to-consumer), although no one really started calling those companies anything more complicated than e-commerce sites or "e-tailers" until the big B-to-B craze kicked in. (That's business-to-business.) Then the abbreviation mania accelerated, driving business plan scribes to reduce their company descriptions to single-letter catch phrases that defy comprehension. "My B-to-B is gonna eat your P-to-P!"

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But is there anything really novel about a B-to-B-to-C, except for the alphabet soup? Can a company really foster better communication with its employees if they call the software they use to do it a B-to-E, (where "E" is for employees)? P-to-P is a particularly comical new coinage for a business model since the phrase starkly points out that there's no middleman -- so how can anyone possibly make any money?

But in the off chance that this super-succinct method of communicating turns out to be more efficient, we really should be working on a glossary. Imagine the alphabet books for toddlers of the future. From here on out A is no longer for apple. It's A is for advertiser. B is for business, obviously. C is for consumer. D is for developer -- or maybe dummies. E is for employee. F is for Fortune 500. G is for garage start-up ... M is for monetized eyeballs ... Z is for zero-sum game.


Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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Kaitlin Quistgaard

Kaitlin Quistgaard, Salon's former technology editor, writes frequently about the arts and South America, where she once lived.

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