OASIS Mailing List ArchivesView the OASIS mailing list archive below
or browse/search using MarkMail.


Help: OASIS Mailing Lists Help | MarkMail Help



   Beta vs VHS (was Re: [xml-dev] Beyond Ontologies)

[ Lists Home | Date Index | Thread Index ]

Roger L. Costello wrote:
> From what I have read, a characteristic of complex systems is that small
> changes/differences are magnified.  They even have a name for this
> characteristic - the Butterfly Effect
> Butterfly Effect - a butterfly stirring the air today in Peking can
> transform storm systems next month in New York.
> Beta vs VHS
> An example of the Butterfly Effect in the economy is shown with Beta
> versus VHS videotapes.  A small difference in the initial user-base (in
> favor of VHS) resulted in an avalanche of people purchasing VHS machines
> (despite Beta being technically superior).  Thus, a small difference was
> greatly magnified.

The archtypical Beta vs VHS story ("Beta was technically superior, but
lost out for <some non-technical or random reason>.") doesn't match what 
really happened. Sony was first to market, had a larger user-base and a 
virtual monopoly on prerecorded programming. But VHS was first with a 
two hour tape, which could record an entire movie unattended. That 
techical advantage and the consumer benefit it provided was what turned 
the tide to VHS.[1]

So I don't think the (real) Beta vs VHS story is a good example of the 
Butterfly Effect in the economy. In seems more like an example where 
consumer choice magnified by the Network Effect[2] leads to a stable 
situation with only one dominant technology. We've certainly seen plenty 
of similar cases over the past couple of decades. I expect that if the 
experiment were re-run multiple with similar initial conditions, the 
outcome would be the same (which is not what you'd expect if the 
Butterfly Effect was involved).


[1] - http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/comment/story/0,12449,881780,00.html

[2] - http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effect


News | XML in Industry | Calendar | XML Registry
Marketplace | Resources | MyXML.org | Sponsors | Privacy Statement

Copyright 2001 XML.org. This site is hosted by OASIS