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America expands once again _ digitally, this time

May 19, 2012 • Business


The Chrysler Building is visible behind the animated facade of the Nasdaq MarketSite, welcoming the Facebook IPO, in New York’s Times Square, Friday, May 18, 2012. Facebook’s stock is trading up Friday, as investors seek to put a dollar value on the company that turned online social networking into a global cultural phenomenon. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) — The metaphor is an easy one, overused and perhaps even a bit overwrought. We are forging forward into a digital frontier, leaving convention behind, traveling without guides into an uncharted virtual land where progress and profits are forever around the next bend.

Sound familiar?

In the 19th century, Americans expanded into a physical frontier — a geographic edge of society brimming with opportunities and dangers and challenges and setbacks. So began the notion of manifest destiny: the idea that, no matter what, the United States pushes outward to the farthest edge of the most distant place possible.

Today, almost two centuries after that term was coined, American expansionism is playing out vigorously at society’s latest cutting edge: the social space of the Internet. Friday’s high-octane, $16 billion IPO of the global juggernaut that is Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is, for better or worse, the most recent example of how the new frontier has been cultivated, colonized and commanded by entrepreneurial Americans.

As the manufacturing economy reconfigures, you often hear the lament that “America doesn’t make anything anymore.” But then there’s this: Most of the world’s digital centers of gravity have been, and remain, American. Apple and Microsoft. Google and Yahoo. YouTube and Amazon and eBay. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Kickstarter. Netflix. PayPal. Akamai, the content-delivery behemoth. Intel, the internal combustion engine of the whole shebang. And for that matter, the Internet itself and the organization that regulates its domain names were both born and raised in (you guessed it) America.

A digital manifest destiny is playing out, built upon the notion that the United States’ outward expansion continues apace on the virtual frontier. What the self-defined sense of American exceptionalism built in the physical world, it is now building in the digital one.

“It’s a projection of American values — what international experts would call soft Login to read more

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