Is the Web dead? What about net neutrality?
Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff’s August 2010 piece in Wired Magazine called, “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet” caused a bit of controversy. The authors argued that the Web is losing supremacy, and stated that our online world will be cordoned off into closed worlds via Apps (for example) over the Internet. In other words, traditional, pre-Internet business models will reign supreme again.
Two decades after its birth, the World Wide Web is in decline, as simpler, sleeker services — think apps — are less about the searching and more about the getting. Chris Anderson explains how this new paradigm reflects the inevitable course of capitalism. And Michael Wolff explains why the new breed of media titan is forsaking the Web for more promising (and profitable) pastures.
They even created this nifty image below, showing the rise and fall of the Web.
Image source: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/all/1
Then there are the continuing arguments over net neutrality. In short, “net neutrality” refers to whether or not the FCC has the right to regulate traffic over the Internet, and whether or not companies can charge more for or block some types of traffic. For example, Comcast wants to charge more for Netflix’s movie streaming service, which sucks up bandwidth on Internet providers’ networks.
Now Sir Tim Berners-Lee has stepped into the debate. (Yes, the guy who created the Web.) He wrote this piece for the December, 2010 issue of Scientific American called, “Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality“, which was published online on November 22nd, 2010. The bannerhead states:
The Web is critical not merely to the digital revolution but to our continued prosperity—and even our liberty. Like democracy itself, it needs defending.
The “In Brief” summarizes the article as follows:
The principle of universality allows the Web to work no matter what hardware, software, network connection or language you use and to handle information of all types and qualities. This principle guides Web technology design.
Technical standards that are open and royalty-free allow people to create applications without anyone’s permission or having to pay. Patents, and Web services that do not use the common URIs for addresses, limit innovation.
Threats to the Internet, such as companies or governments that interfere with or snoop on Internet traffic, compromise basic human network rights.
Web applications, linked data and other future Web technologies will flourish only if we protect the medium’s basic principles.
I read the paper; Berners-Lee reiterated the basic principles that have enabled the Web to thrive for 20 years.
The issue appears to be whether or not the Internet and Web will be turned into a consortium of mini-oligarchies. So far, open access to technology and content have been the keys to technological success — plus, they help support those little things like freedom of expression and democratic values. However, I used to work in data communications, so a few companies using inordinate amounts of bandwidth to stream data is not something you can ignore in terms of cost and infrastructure. I’m also amused that people are re-learning the difference between “Web” and “Internet” again — the two have been conflated many times over the past 15 years.
Do you have any thoughts or comments on this battle over the future of the Web and the Internet that you’d like to share?
Note — added 20 December 2010 — IEEE has an article on Internet metering with quotes from both Comcast and Level 3 regarding their dispute. Comcast had this to say:
“… despite Level 3’s effort to portray its dispute with Comcast as being about an ‘open Internet,’ it is nothing but a good old-fashioned commercial peering dispute, the kind that Level 3 has found itself in before. Notwithstanding Level 3’s claims, this is not about online video, it is not about “paid prioritization,’ it does not involve putting ‘toll booths’ on the Internet, and it is not about net neutrality. Indeed, if anything, it is Level 3 that is seeking ‘non-neutral’ treatment that would favor its network traffic over those of all its competitors. ”
[ Main article via Jane G.]