Not quite the vikings...People in the Nordic countries often pride themselves of their viking past - I know, 'cause I'm one of the muscle-less wannabe's.
To tell you the truth, we don't want to forget this period of bizarre fame and evidence of muscle and blood, guts and glory. It gives us a feeling of control and sense of importance.
Today, this memory of our viking past and a rediscovery of those brutal genes from a long time ago has led to a new wish in the Nordic countries. Once again, an attempted world invasion is at hand, but this time the old ships have been exchanged for different vessels sailing an ocean of bits and bytes.
The Internet viking has arrived with an armada of infrastructure at hand.
The two middles
For some reason, developement for the Internet is led by two very different places in the world: the USA and the Nordic countries. I don't mean to offend everyone living elsewhere, but this is a statistical fact. Other countries are now gaining ground, but the fact remains: in Europe, the Nordic countries are ahead, mainly Finland and Sweden, but also to some extent Denmark.
One very simple explanation to this somewhat strange phenomenon (that both Britain, France and Germany are left behind) is found in infrastructure. We are small countries with large distances. Efficient phone lines are absolutely crucial :-) for our survival. Would you like to live in the woods with nowhere to go and no one to talk to?
I thought not.
One measurement of Internet penetration is to count the degree of access in a society. This recent month 1.9 million swedes (of about 9 million in total) accessed the Internet, compared to 2.4 million britains.
The main explanation
The main explanation for this developement, however, I believe is found in culture and it's relationship to new things. Ever since those first days of exploration a thousand years ago, people in the Nordic countries have had a lust for new horizons and new waters to cross.
This need for exploration has shown itself before. In the 17th century, swedish newspapers were leading the way. Furthermore, the Nordic countries have developed a political system of complete openness where, for instance, anyone is allowed to read all mail to any politician (and even has the right to read it before the politician has read the mail himself).
Coupled with a vastly spread telephone net of high quality and the right sociopolitical decisions (new companies were able to establish themselves as a better alternative than the ordinary, stately phone company), this system of information openness has breeded a race of information greedy Internet vikings, once again set out to explore and navigate.
The Internet is, quite simply, very well suited to our quiet and travel-happy lifestyles.
So, where are we headed with all this greed and cultural freedom?
For the Nordic countries, the Internet in general and the world wide web in particular first (between 1994 and early 1996) became the new golden platform for publishing and financial news. Then, about a year and a half ago, the dawn of a commercially interesting new era came: the first really successful Swedish internetshop was released.
It was something as unsexy as the Swedish version of Harrods (http://www.nk.se/) that started to sell and deliver grocerys. Food sold over the web, delivered by tidy men in shop uniforms, carrying the food in specially made boxes, driving specially built cars.
This might sound a bit weird, but proved to be a big success - for one reason that got more and more apparent as other internetshops failed: they had a good idea. Glamour brought to everyday shopping.
But the best part is that they don't buy the same glamour they get. The best selling products are...
Bananas and milk.
No glamour there.
The modern viking
The modern viking is a glamourless creature selling bananas and milk over the web to familys with small children. Familys who would never have done their shopping at a place like Harrods, but now do - because of the convenience.
As we continue to travel into the unknown territory called the future, that is what we keep reminding ourselves of: that you never know what is the nest big thing.
I mean, who would guess that bananas and milk, delivered by vikings, would be the hit of the decade?