Article | Harvard Business Review | May–June 1996

Ruling the Net

by D. L. Spar and Jeffrey J. Bussgang


The Internet promises a radical new world of business. But for many companies, it has yet to deliver. Although doing business in cyberspace may be novel and exhilarating, it can also be frustrating, confusing, and even unprofitable. Debora Spar and Jeffrey Bussgang argue that the problems companies face have little to do with a lack of technology or imagination. Their problems stem instead from a lack of rules. The authors explain why the informal rules that have developed on the Internet since the 1960s are no longer sufficient. Businesses thinking of allowing millions of dollars of transactions to occur on the wide-open Net need specific assurances. They require clear definitions of property rights, a safe and useful means of exchange, and a way to locate and punish violators of on-line rules.

Keywords: Information Services; Online Technology;


Spar, D. L., and Jeffrey J. Bussgang. "Ruling the Net." Harvard Business Review 74, no. 3 (May–June 1996): 125–133.