I write this to you because you are the largest and most powerful companies in your ecosystems. The digital world has become ridiculous and you need to be leaders in rectifying the situation. Let’s start with Amazon. The two biggest digital things you sell are books and music. Back in the analog world before commerce became a Wonderland distortion, if I bought a book or CD, any member in my household could access this item. It didn’t matter if I bought the book or my wife bought the book. We could both read it. The same went with a CD. Either of us could grab the CD off the shelf and put it into our portable CD player. But now go to the Kindle (or any other e-reader system) and Amazon CloudPlayer. Sure, either of us could pick up the e-reader to read a book. But what if we both want to read a different book at the same time. How can we access each other’s libraries? What about if we each want to listen to the same music library from Amazon CloudPlayer on our smart phones or other devices? For various reasons, like Amazon recommendations, it makes sense for us to have different accounts instead of a family account.
Valve, back in the PC disc days we’d install our games on all of our computers. Maybe that was technically against the license, but it certainly made more sense than having to swap computers when we wanted to play different games. I understand not allowing us to both play the same game at the same time with just one license. While people used to do that, I understand that fair is fair. You can’t read the same book at the same time (comfortably, anyway), so if you both want to play the same game at the same time you need two licenses. But what doesn’t make sense is that (at least the last time I tried this) I can’t be signed into Steam on two computers at once. So if I want to play Portal while my wife plays Peggle, I can’t. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I shouldn’t have to buy two copies of it so that she can play that game while I play another.
So here’s my proposal: linking of family resources. In other words, just like the AOL accounts of old, someone chooses to be the Head of the Household. Everyone else can link to that account and all their purchases pool. This way they don’t need to share passwords, etc in case there are breakups, divorces, etc. In those cases, everyone keeps whatever they bought with their account. Also, it allows everyone to have their own stats tracking instead of Amazon recommending girly things to me or my wife getting my Steam achievements. Pubilshers will push back and say that people will claim to have 100-member families or something. You, Amazon and Valve, are large enough to push back with rationality! Clearly you will only allow a reasonable amount of people to link accounts. You could set it to a reasonable number like 5. If someone has a larger family, they could apply for a larger account and certify under penalty of the law, or whatever makes the lawyers happy, that this person is a member of their family.
I need you guys to lead the charge because things are getting ridiculous. And it’s only going to get worse as more and more goods are digitized. Help bring some rationality to commerce. And if there’s already a way to do this that I missed, that’s great! Someone point me to how to do that in the comments.