The Digital Skeptic: Square Shaping Up To Be Facebook 2.0

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Before investors go all ga-ga thinking San Francisco-based funds transaction powerhouse Square really is worth $3.3 billion, they might want to consider the notion of "funds" themselves, since in this never-more-bizarre information age not everyone is going to need funds like they used to.

Believe it: Money itself is coming under the same commoditization pressures faced by all forms of information flowing on a digital network.

The new reality that dollars don't mean what they used to already has a hip, new-age brand. It's called "collaborative consumption." That means that when it comes to acquiring stuff, who needs money after all?  

Taking its place is "the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting and swapping, reinvented through network technologies on a scale and in ways never possible before," says collaborativeconsumption.com, the Web hub on all things collaboratively consumptive.

The trend even has its Steve Jobs -- her name is Rachel Botsman, an author and trend analyst who has a written the treatise of the space with Roo Rogers called What's Mine is Yours. In it, and in speeches around the world, Botsman makes a heck of a case that the modern age is moving away from money as the be-all, end-all transaction tool.

"Technology is enabling trust between strangers" is my favorite quote from a recent lecture she gave at the TED Sydney conference. "Social bartering, swapping and sharing are being reinvented in dynamic and appealing forms. Networks and real-time technologies are taking us back."

Back to the fiscal future
Collaborative consumption is already beyond the fly-by-night trend stage. It is a massive,entrenched fast-growing sector in the self-destructive digital economy. Most anything now can be bartered. Belgium-based Zilok lets anyone rent essentially anything from anybody around the world. San Francisco-based Airbnb lets any user share spare rooms they might have. RelayRides, also in San Francisco, does the same for rental cars. There is Tripping.com for organizing rentals, Eventup for throwing a party, Gidsy for sharing or learning skills, Spinlister to help you borrow a bike.

And if you ponder these services, strange economic beasts begin to lurk under the bed.

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