...from Uber and Airbnb in his column today. First he quotes a guy named Tom Goodwin:
“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”
And the moral of the story, according to Mr. Friedman?
We’re at the start of a major shift on the question of what’s worth owning. What all of the above companies have in common is that they have either created trust platforms that match supply and demand for things people never thought of supplying: a spare bedroom in their home or a seat in their car or a commercial link between a small retailer in North Dakota and a small manufacturer in China. Or they are behavioral platforms that spin off extremely valuable data for retailers and advertisers or they are behavioral platforms on which ordinary people can generate reputations — for driving, hosting or any skill you can imagine — and then market themselves globally.
That may very well be. But my takeaway is a little simpler: the middle class is so strapped today that people are being forced to rent out spare bedrooms in their homes and drive what used to be called "gypsy cabs" in their spare time for extra income. (And people like me are taking them up on it.)
What does this all mean? I'm not sure, but it could speak to growing inequality. Or the gradual erosion of the middle class in America. Either way, it's not good. People were supposed to get wealthier over time, not poorer.