Hugene - 4:50 pm on Nov 25, 2010 (gmt 0)
This is all a continuation of the discussion of the topic about the Web's future started by Wired in their "The Web is Dead, Long Live the Internet" article (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/all/1). Even the titles are echoes of each other, except that Berners Lee sticks to his guns by calling it the "Long live the Web ...".
I think that in their traditional sensationalist style (after all it's magazine and it needs to sell), Wired wen't over the top by declaring the Web dead. It is definitely not (and the upcoming shopping season will prove that).
However, both articles do make a valid point, about the creation of walled gardens being back in style because of FB, Apple and Internet-Apps in general.
Where Wired is wrong though is in saying that it is a normal business evolution to create walled gardens, because this is where profit is created.
Wired goes further on to say that, like electricity or telecom services, businesses will eventually centralize and amalgamate to create a couple of giant champions which will be the only ones to rule and turn a profit.
On the 1st point, Wired is wrong because there are tons of Web-based companies churning huge profits, and whose platforms are not walled-gardens (even though they all preciously guard the data they collect about us, but this is data their record and not that you intentionally give, I think this distinction is key). These companies are Google, Ebay, Amazon, Yahoo, Craigslist, etc... Walled gardens make money too (ex Apple), but the previous mentioned examples use open-standards and are hugely successfulness businesses. Facebook on the other hand has yet to prove that they make any serious amount of cash, by opening their books.
On the 2nd point, Wired is also wrong because the open standard aspect of the Web and the underlying Internet makes it easy for smaller businesses to be created, generate profit and maybe even eventually grow. The beast case of this is ecommerce. Get your hand on a product (buy it or even better, make it) setup a site ans start selling. Maybe one day you'll become an Amazon, but if you don't, you can still run a successful small or medium business, ones that don't exist in the electricity or telecom distribution businesses.
But both Wired and Berners Lee are correct in saying that there are strong forces that try to undermine the openness of the Web.
As both a webmaster and a consumer, I have tried to make a little manifesto on how to best prevent this. Here we go:
As a consumer:
* Vote with your wallet, don't buy a product just to fit in (aka Apple).
* Use open source / standard tools (aka Firefox, Chrome (at least it's open source))
* Test your internet connection at home (using [broadband.mpi-sws.org...] If it is slowed down, call your ISP and complain until it isn't anymore.
* If your ISP supports it, setup an encrypted tunnel.
* Make your browsers always start in private mode by default (for Firefox use this: "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -private in the shortcut, for Chrome use C:\Users\eeugnic\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --incognito
* Don't share your personal private data with Google, Facebook, nor any other platform. Share the strict minimum (even your real name should be kept private when you can).
As a webmaster:
* Use HTML5. Always.
* Don't make Apps (apps are a fad, that should die). Make your HTML5 site work with mobiles. Test for your site on mobiles and optimize your HTML5 so that an App is not needed.
* Encourage competition amongst search engines by not implicitly favorings a single SE. To do this, you can simply install the Analytics tools of M$, Y and G at the same time, making sure they all get access to your data.
* Optimize for all search engines, read on all search engines.
* Don't put only a FB Like button with a Tweet button on your pages: put as many sharing and social tools as you can. Don't favor only one.
* Don't spend your productive time on your FB page or Tweeter: they should be secondary. Spend your time on your web property.
I don't always follow these rules, nor should you. But we should all try to follow a bit, and this will make a tremendous difference.
And there are probably tons of other simple things we can do to improve openness and privacy and stimulate economic growth. Because a closed Web will be the economic death of service-based economies like ours. Where was the growth last 20 years? In technology, much related to the Web and Internet. Where was the fall? In manufacturing. Keep that in mind when closing-off the Web.