I’ve been fairly amused to watch an entire economy (bubble?) build in manufactured scarcity over the last few months, based on invitations to beta releases of Web 2.0 services. This week, it seems to be the currency of trade is Pownce and Ooma; a few months ago it was Joost; there seems to be a “new! exclusive!” invitation every week. I’ve even seen some people trying to trade their invitations on mailing lists. It seems like the next step in this bubble-like cycle is to start a web marketplace for trading beta invites (Oops! Michael Arrington just bought one).
Seriously, the whole cycle around beta invites to web sites feels awfully like the manufactured scarcity that you see from the whole collectibles market, where the value of an item is not so much based on it’s true value and usefulness, but the perceived value due to a “scarcity” that has been conjured up by some good marketing. Even if a Web 2.0 company has a dumpy AJAX-social networking-video sharing-search engine-widget site which you’d never in your life use again, the idea that you can get one of the “exclusive!” invites makes it seem like it’s worth a lot more than it really is. It feels (to me, at least) symptomatic of the human psychology behind things like the infamous Dutch tulip bubble.