has a great profile of Tim "Master Switch
" Wu, the activist scholar who coined the term "Net Neutrality." Tim's a respected authority on the history of media regulation and consolidation, and he likes to frame the current battle for the open, free Internet in the context of the historical fights over the phone network, TV, and radio. And unlike some writers with a cursory understanding of those earlier media (which leads them to assert that the Internet is just like all the media that went before it), Wu does a good job in explaining why the Internet is different. He doesn't argue that the Internet is invulnerable to corruption or corporatisation, but he understands why this would be a greater loss than the losses in other media, and has concrete ideas about how to fight back (he's just been appointed to the US Federal Trade Commission).
If it does, says Wu, what's at stake is the principle on which the internet was founded. At its inception, "the internet was typically a place where you could put up content without anybody's permission". But partnerships between the bigger web-related companies might squeeze out the smaller ones. Using the example of the online news industry, Wu suggests that if newspapers were to follow the example of Rupert Murdoch's new iPad-based "paper", The Daily, and "become exclusive partners with Apple, it may be easier for them to make money, but we may also end up with a media on the internet that is significantly more closed than it is now." This is because, he says, "You can imagine a future where blogs don't really have a meaningful future, because the content provided on a platform [such as Apple] doesn't create any room for anyone other than its exclusive media partners." So, Wu concludes: "The internet as a forum for speech, as a place where an individual with a talent can compete with a major newspaper - I'm suggesting that model may be passing."
The Wu master
But though the internet was a freer place in its younger days, I ask Wu, wasn't it only available to a privileged few? Big conglomerates may be growing ever powerful, but haven't they at least brought the internet to a much wider audience than the academics and techies of the early 90s? "It shouldn't be a trade-off," Wu replies. "There is some truth to the idea that companies are interested in consumers, and so they bring [the internet] to a broader marketplace - but it is still important to stand up for the original values of the internet." Wu sees these values "as fundamental to a free society", values that we should preserve even as the internet becomes "a mass consumption product. And I think it's possible. You don't have to throw those values out the window just because millions of people are using it."
(Image; Linda Nylind for the Guardian)
2001 Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz has a long history of being on the right side of history. For example: pricing the Iraq war at $3T; raising the alarm about sovereign wealth funds acquiring US debt; nailing the double-standard on bailouts for debt crises (and the way that this destabilizes poor countries); sounding the […]
In this 30 minute video, Harry Brignull rounds up his work on cataloging and unpicking “Dark Patterns,” (previously) the super-optimized techniques used by online services to lure their customers into taking actions they would not make otherwise and will later regret.
What to do if you’ve just signed up to work in one of the most expensive real-estate markets in the world, with almost all of your net worth tied up in illiquid shares in your employer’s company? Just ask a Silicon Valley bank for a 100% mortgage, which they’ll cheerfully supply on 24 hours’ notice, […]
Looks like all of your potential employers are hiring candidates with programming skills (which you don’t have). With all of the languages out there today, it’s tough to know where to start.With the Complete Front-End to Back-End Coding Bundle, you can beef your resume up in all the right places, no confusion necessary. This package of […]
Those of us who love music wish we could listen to it 24/7. But it’s impossible when we’re trying to converse with our friends, or when are swimming in the local pool.That is, until now. The KOAR Bone Conduction Bluetooth Headset, now 48% off, has changed the audio game.Made with lightweight titanium memory metal, this headset boasts patented bone conduction technology to transport sound […]
It’s one thing to enjoy dinner at home and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with your best friend, Netflix, but it’s another thing entirely to make that meal from scratch and get that wine delivered right to your doorstep.But what if we told you there’s a way to make this possible? To keep your social life, […]