Robot animation illustrates the rise, fall and cause of the free and open Web

Pam sez, "his animation uses robot characters to give a brief history of how the once-free web has become proprietary, and what needs to be done to make it free again." Link (Thanks, Pam!)


  1. I find it rather ironic that they’re accusing Google of being a “restrictatron”, but they’ve got no issue with FireFox, which is pretty much addicted to Google’s cash,

  2. It’s even more ironic that this film is linked from a site that has an ad banner across the top, a skyscraper banner and box ads along the side, and text ads (classifieds) below those. bOingbOing is exactly the sort of website that they’re railing against — ad-supported, “promoting their own content at the expense of others”. It is standards-compliant, but that’s not what they’re talking about. And while bb doesn’t misuse the information it collects from me, it certainly does collect it, as I had to log on to post this comment (which I happily do, note. I love bb, and I think bb and google are excellent models for how the web Should Be, but the creators of this video most emphatically do not.)

  3. Indeed. And, honestly, there are many things you can lambaste Google about (privacy, supporting Chinese censorship, etc.), but their advertising isn’t one of them. As internet advertising goes, their ads have always been uncharacteristically unobtrusive and relevant.

  4. I agree, the bit is well intentioned but a little off.

    While I’m no fan of Google’s privacy policies and have various misgivings about their control of the web, I’m not about to return to the days of Webcrawler or Hotbot to spite them.

    Also — the video is itself acting as a piece of advertising, albeit for a non-profit site, but it detracts from the overall point about removing advertising from the web.

    And, as BSD pointed out, has plenty of advertising. If they’re really interested in encouraging free sharing of knowledge it doesn’t make sense that they reserve all rights to their work (see bottom of the homepage).

    Why not CC license it or release it to the public domain?

    I think the important point is to realize that advertising is actually liberating in some way on the web — instead of having to rely on arcane content business models where access to work is sold and highly regulated, advertising can allow work to be offered for gratis.

    But this isn’t to say that Facebook’s Beacon isn’t worrying…

  5. That was not just a little off, it was way-off.

    The entire thing was extremely rhetorical to the point of stupidity.

    Breaking things down into restrictacons and freedomtrons is juvenile, lame, and wrong.

    The premise of the clip is the web used to be free from tyranny, until greedy people came along to seize it. They then used advertising to block you from doing what you want, all the while gathering statistics and building profiles (gasp). So now Firefox and Wikipedia have come along to somehow save the day.

    The reality is the web was non-commercial and due to the low levels of users it stayed that way for a while. As the web became popular the costs associated with the free delivery of content became unbearable for some. The model that triumphed in the end was an advertising based one, merely because people do not want to pay for content they feel should be free. It isn’t some conspiracy, or some form of tyranny– it’s what people want.

    Anyway, nice attempt– but it’s a little too early to start reinterpreting history.

  6. Am I the only person to note the irony of the fact that this video is hosted at Youtube, a Google property?

    I’ve been using the web since ’94. And while I don’t like the barrage of advertising, it’s hardly new—I’ve been seeing banner ads at least since ’95.

    In terms of balkanization, the Web is probably healthier than it was, say, 10 years ago. There’s a general agreement that browsers should support standards rather than invent their own, which was considerable cause for concern before. Net Neutrality is the issue today, but Google stands to be a victim of that. It’s hardly a perpetrator.

  7. I’m the producer/director of this video so let me chime in. On the irony of using youtube – of course we used the very dominant corporate sites, we want to get at average users not preach to the choir. We want to get those using the new media cartel off of it – we can’t do this by avoiding them. We did this on purpose. If I had used Internet Archive only, people would ask what’s the point, why do this. We do have it hosted elsewhere including BlipTV and IA, and we’ll make our lead video source from one of these places shortly.
    ~use the corporate media to criticize the corporate media

    bOingbOing is not the kind of site we are railing against – bOingbOing is Independent, and not nearly as exploitive as Google/Facebook/Myspace/Microsoft

    The video is CreativeCommons licensed

    Raian, I don’t agree with your interpretation of history. The web did not need to be commercialized to the level it has because people were unwilling to pay. You are structuring the options here. We can have a relatively non-commercial web that is free, lots of folks are doing this right now. Nobody ever said it was a conspiracy, it’s about commercial interests and the public interest.

    Net Neutrality is an issue I’m very much involved with but we need to keep the web open at all levels. I would even go so as to say NN is a more crucial issue right now, but that does not negate the importance of the issues raised in the video.
    -I’ve been involved in producing two videos on NN.
    “Death of the Internet” (Director/Producer) “Save The Internet” (Associate Producer)

    thanks for the pointed discussion on these important issues


  8. I’m all for Creative Commons, Wikipedia, and Open-Source Software. These things are all snowballing into huge sources of great stuff that rival the best commercially-produced stuff out there. And of course Network Neutrality is immensely important.

    However, some people want to make money online. Can you blame them? Why is that evil? Why is it so bad for me to offer to sell you something?

    If you visit a site, it logs what you request of it. It might use those requests to figure out which kinds of ads you’re more likely to like. Is that so bad? When I actively log on to a site and voluntarily supply information, the site remembering what I do can HARDLY be equated with “aggressively invading my privacy”! That’d be like me saying “Hey, you remembered something I told you yesterday! That is an invasion of my privacy!”

    Hosting and bandwidth cost money. Some people display adds on their site so that their site stays up. How is that different from any TV station, radio station, newspaper, or magazine? Not everyone wants to pay out of their own pockets in order to be able to broadcast their content.

    And if I set up a site where I am willing to host other people’s content, I am free to add any terms of service I want, such as “I own anything you upload into my server”. I’d be a jerk if I did it, but everyone is free to turn down my offer of hosting their stuff. I’m not holding anyone at gunpoint and telling them they must upload their pictures into my site and hand me the rights.

    It’s great that dedicated hobbyists are willing to spend serious effort making cool stuff and then making it libre and/or gratis. It really is. I am using Firefox right now, I have Ubuntu on my other computer, and I use open-source software on this windows machine to help me manage my music and transcode video. But if someone thinks they can make money by selling non-free content that they think is superior to the free stuff, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with supporting a website by using ads? What’s wrong with remembering your users’ requests? Why must the web be walled off from people selling what they have made?

  9. Making money isn’t evil in itself. The point is large media companies are creating personal profiles of web users, and structuring the web to promote your content and services over others, while hyper-commercializing our web experience. This might not be evil, but it’s not something we should put up with. – creating walled gardens is not what I feel the web should be about, particularly by large for-profit corporation.

    Us having a conversation is nothing like a huge corporation monitoring and corralling all of my online activities. I’m a person, Google/Facebook/Myspace are huge corporations that have a very dominant position on the web.

    I’m not critiquing independent blogs our websites here.

    It is more then dedicated hobbyists who are using and building what I call the public benefit web. Wikipedia is one of the most popular sites, and Firefox competes with Microsoft quite well.

    nobody is calling for walling off anything – it is the big corporations who are walling off the web. Try to post a video that isn’t Youtube on Okurt – you can’t because Google owns it.

    The problem with hyper-commercialism and privacy invasions is that these big companies are abusing there dominant market positions on the web by doing so. And I don’t completely blame them in my article on this I suggest three ways to combat this closing off of the web:

    1. Push for public interest policy that limits the new media cartels ability to exploit web users. The Center Digital Democracy, US PIRG and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are fighting these battles on our behalf in Washington.

    2. Build public campaigns to limit and roll back exploitation of web users by new media giants. MoveOn’s recent successful campaign to get Facebook to reframe from the worst of its predatory practices is a great example.

    3. Support digital public benefit spaces and services that respect user privacy and our right unencumbered online navigation. This last lever is perhaps the most effective and successful but maybe the least acknowledged.

    -the rest of the article is here:

    And don’t be so simplistic to say users can just go elsewhere if they don’t like it. Why don’t you say that about Net Neutrality? Because we don’t have real choice, because a few companies dominate – big business regulates the market. If a company competes successfully it either needs to adopt the predatory practices of the incumbents, or they are bought by one, or it is a part of the public benefit web. My point is that we should support this public benefit web more and fight these exploititive practices any other way we can.

    It’s not evil, but it’s also not something we should put up with. At the end of the day this is about web services and spaces being centralized. See my article for details:

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