Jiva Technology

Square and the continued existence of local customs

I was in New York last week.

That’s not an idle boast regarding my globe-trotting credentials, but a scene setter for something that has occurred to me over the past few weeks. Despite the intentions of most web businesses to be ‘global in reach’, the reality is that most are as heavily influenced by local customs and ways of doing things as your good old-fashioned bricks and mortar (that sounds more and more like a dated term) business. Why do I say this? Because whilst grabbing a coffee at a corner store, I had my first brush with SQUARE, the super hot brainchild of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Since the service has raised about 400 gazillion dollars in seed funding, I was interested to know how it was going and why they used it. To cut a long story short, because it’s easier for them to charge tips and in NYC in particular (and the US in general) tips are how the people behind the counter make a living. Now, this isn’t necessarily true in London or Berlin, so it seems to me that Square is very much a child of it’s surroundings. Hardly surprising and unique – Facebook gets it’s name from … well, the fact that US schools and colleges had Facebooks (I’m not aware that they appeared anywhere else).

Now in certain parts of the EU, we used to howl in rage at US cultural imperialism via films and hamburger restaurants, but seem to be pretty happy to accept it if it means we can keep in touch with our mates, freunde and amis.

Perhaps it’s time for we British, French and Germans to start imposing our cultural habits upon the US via some cleverly crafted code. Candy Crush doesn’t really fit the bill, but it’s got me thinking about how our cultural oddities could be turned into code and exported overseas. Or maybe it’s just a reminder that if you don’t have the huge amount of cash required to force your way into a foreign market, it’s worth remembering that local custom matters as much on the internet as it does in the real world.



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