Discussion on whether QWERTY was really an inferior standard to Dvorak keyboard : http://www.independent.org/tii/news/990403Liebowitz.html

Evidence seems to go like this :

  • 1) No good evidence that QWERTY is inferior to Dvorak
  • 2) Analysing reviews of MicroSoft products, it seems that success in the market is proportional to / what you would predict given the reviews.

And the strongly implied conclusions :

  • 3) Therefore Microsoft didn't benefit from any NetworkEffect / LockIn type magic. Success was all due to the superiority of their products.
  • 4) Therefore NetworkEffects either don't exist or are not in any sense problematic in that they don't prevent markets finding optimum solutions to things.

Thoughts

On 1), BradDeLong comments that if we don't know which keyboard was better, that is itself a MarketFailure, because the market failed to discover it. http://www.eh.net/lists/archives/eh.res/jun-1999/0002.php

OTOH it might just be that neither is substantially better, so market selection in this case is just random drift.

But in that case, there is still something going on, because the market for keyboards isn't split roughly 50 / 50 between QWERTY and Dvorak. So the evidence still shows that, at least in the absense of other selective pressure, there are PositiveFeedback, winner-takes-all effects in the market.

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