Are we are evolving our contract with society through our increasing interactions with digital platforms, and in particular, through what we’ve come to call the web?
John Battelle has put forth his vision for The Independent Web .
WHEN George W. Bush referred to “rumours on the, uh, internets” during the 2004 presidential campaign, he was derided for his cluelessness—and “internets” became a shorthand for a lack of understanding of the online world. But what looked like ignorance then looks like prescience now.
If Facebook’s IPO filing does anything besides mint a lot of millionaires, it will be to shine a rather unsettling light on a fact most of us would rather not acknowledge: The web as we know it is rather like our polar ice caps: under severe, long-term attack by forces of our own creation. And if we lose the web, well, we lose more than funny cat videos and occasionally brilliant blog posts. We lose a commons, an ecosystem, a “ tangled bank ” where serendipity, dirt, and iterative trial and error drive open innovation. Google’s been the focus of most of this analysis (hell, I called Facebook an “ existential threat ” to Google on Bloomberg yesterday), but I’d like to pull back for a second.
The date was January 3, 2008. Facebook had kicked me off for running a script to try to save the common web . See, I worked with Plaxo to run a simple script. One that would have taken my contacts out of Facebook and put them back into the common web.
Yesterday Robert Scoble once again declared that the Open Web was dead . His argument was that Apps and proprietary black holes like Facebook are absorbing all the light (read: users, attention, value, investment) and taking our beloved open platform right along with it. In his post, he kindly (but incorrectly) named me as the only person who really cares about the Open Web. While that’s flattering, I think he’s wrong about me being the only one who cares. But he is right about the Open Web. It’s in real danger.
We asked veteran technology writer and investor Esther Dyson, a longtime friend of Personal Democracy, for her thoughts on a current controversy: is the open web dying? --The Editors I'm wading into an argument that I think may be overblown. With Facebook going public and Google threatened by apps and closed services such as FB, is the open web doomed? You might think so after reading the dueling blog posts of John Battelle , Robert Scoble and Dave Winer in the past few days.
As Facebook draws close to the billion-user mark and a $100-billion market valuation, the giant social network’s dominance has reignited old fears about the decline and fall of the open web. John Battelle argues that we need a manifesto for the truly open Internet in order to rally the troops, but blogging veteran Robert Scoble says it is too late and he has already given up the fight . And longtime technology watcher and investor Esther Dyson says we need to remember that the Internet is prone to cycles of open vs. closed .
When you use an app, or a platform like a mobile phone, or a social network, or a web service — whether it’s from Google or Apple or Amazon or Facebook — do you think about the extent to which it is open or closed ? Or do you just think about how it looks, or what it lets you do, or whether your friends are using it? Most of us probably fall into the latter category, but as veteran blogger Anil Dash and others have pointed out recently , there are some good reasons why we should care about the future of the open web, and be concerned about a trend towards more closed networks.
In a recent discussion on Hacker News , user andyl made the following comment: “Before Google+ came along, Google had many great products and embraced the OpenWeb . Now Google has abandoned Open Standards like RSS and CalDAV, and I think Google is more interested in building their own walled garden.”