The gatekeepers are dead. Long live the World Wide Web!

Information is power, control, and supremacy.

Until recently the tools for mass communication were expensive and in the hands of a small number of gatekeepers. Then, the price rapidly fell towards zero. With the Internet and the World Wide Web (that just turned 25 years old) anyone can communicate with the world by words, pictures, sound, and video – 24/365 – on a shoestring budget.

Still, people need to know about you. So fame, reputation, and status are factors to take into consideration. But content, quality (in some sense) and virality is the new gold standard.

This has upset the people who used to be in power, like bigwig politicians. They used to have their press releases copy-pasted into the media news flow without too much hassle. Today they still are visible in the slowly dying mainstream media. But on the Internet, they have to compete for attention with everybody and everything else.

Also, media proprietors, the copyright industry and the big brick and mortar chains are upset – just to mention a few.

It could have been very different.

Tim Berners-Lee – who invented the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) together with his friends at W3C at Cern – decided not to patent this method of connecting the dots in the Matrix, but to give it to the world.

Alternatively, the Internet could have been in the hands of a few: Microsoft, Times Warner, Disney, Universal and some television conglomerates. It could have been compartmentalized with different protocols, specialized gadgets and used mainly to send information rather than allowing interaction.

Probably, there would also have been some sort of popular alternative run by enthusiasts – but it would have nothing like the impact of the WWW, where everybody interacts on the same platform.

Still, there are those who try to turn back time and change the outcome. This is the underlying context of the copyright war, the rationale behind political initiatives like ACTA, and an issue where Big Government and Big Business have coinciding interests.

At the same time, the Internet changes other markets like transportation and the hotel business. There is an emerging sharing economy. The Internet of things will change our lives in unforeseen ways.

The other side of the coin is that this technology might invade our privacy and be used for mass surveillance and political control.

This is a mix of spontaneous development (that politicians should keep away from) and some very political questions about privacy, data protection and the relation between citizens and the government.

A free and open Internet will provide endless possibilities and progress. And it will need Internet activism to stay free and open for all. That is, for instance, what this blog is all about.



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    […] The gatekeepers are dead. Long live the World Wide Web! […]

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