Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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World of Ends

March 10th, 2003 · 1 Comment

Various industries are seeking to compromise the open, end-to-end architecture of the Internet and replace the public’s information commons with proprietary control. The enclosure of the Internet commons is being achieved through the attempted subversion of open technical standards; unprecedented expansions of intellectual property law at the expense of free information exchange; “techno-locks “that reduce the public domain and fair use rights; and the privatization of Internet governance.

That’s a quote from David Bollier, and it’s part of why I have reservations about The World of Ends. WofE is a lovely, compelling document–David Weinberger and Doc Searls are two of my favorite bloggers–BUT….

  1. I don’t share their optimism about their audience.

    D&D urge businesses to give up on subverting the web to their own selfish goals, because it makes the web worse. Do businesses really care if the web gets worse? If I promised you a billion dollars tomorrow, but the cost was making the Internet just a bit worse –what would you do? How about if you knew that if you didn’t grab that billion dollar profit, someone else would do the dirty deed instead?

  2. I don’t share their confidence in the future–or even the present.

    The Internet was built on a boatload of government funding, and run as a “gift economy” by academics for many years. That was then, this is now. Count the number of spam messages and popup ads you saw today if you don’t believe me. Who crushed Napster? Who killed web radio? Can you predict what the next target will be?

  3. I don’t want stupid companies to stop making stupid mistakes.

    The alternative is that they work in sneakier ways. We all laugh at the fake “teen girl” website promoting beef–the next one will be more subtle. We all laugh at the fake weblogs for Raging Cow–the next company to try to market through weblogs will be smarter. People on Slashdot laugh at the astroturf posters who work for Microsoft. Do you think Microsoft can’t afford to hire people to spend time creating online personalities–charming, engaging, multifaceted–who just happen to think Microsoft isn’t all that bad?

I’m grateful to D&D for a clear, loving portrait of what the Internet could be and should be. But the Internet they describe is already being eroded. Corporate and government wolves are circling, all of them eager to bite off another piece of it for themselves. I say, let’s get ready to pull up our wagons in a circle to fight them off.

Tags: Life, the universe, and everything

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