The World Wide Web turns 20 next month. Will it make it safely into middle age, or flame out like Jim Morrison?
Tim Berners-Lee sparked debate this week with a timely piece in Scientific American – Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality. Some observers felt he was taking a particular swipe at Facebook and Apple.
Sir Tim doesn’t pussyfoot around about the open, neutral Web’s significance: “The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium,” he writes. “It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age.”
Traffick asked some leading thinkers in the space for their views on Berners-Lee’s essay. This is the first of five mini “essays” as we take the week to reflect on the future of the Web. With thanks to all of our guest authors.
Open Will Always Win in a Fair Fight
We all need to support an Open Internet with vigilance and not take it for granted. TBL does a good job of identifying a range of threats to the Open Internet, but in my opinion some are more dangerous than others.
On the Internet, “Open” operates like a natural force. In a fair fight, open always wins over closed. I am less concerned with walled gardens like Facebook. We can already see that one of the primary weapons in competition between Facebook and Google is openness.
I said that open will always win in a fair fight. For this reason, I believe the more serious threats to the Open Internet come from governments and IP-interests. Legislation like COICA in the United States, elements of C-32 in Canada and especially ACTA in many countries serve to greatly threaten an Open Internet. Governments are using the “threat” of security as an excuse to snoop and censor. Intellectual property interests are using their lobbying power to protect their narrow commercial interests, whatever the cost. I said that open will always win in a fair fight. It is governments and those who influence them for their own narrow interests who can make the fight unfair.
We all can and should help. Support organizations like Creative Commons. Let your politicians know how you feel about odious legislation. Support ICANN, which is the first true exercise in global (not international) governance and helps protect the Internet from the likes of the ITU. We all know how to get our messages out, but we simply do not turn our abilities into actions often enough.
The Open Internet allows innovation without permission. This important value must be protected.
Elliot Noss is President and CEO of Toronto-based Tucows, Inc., an ICANN-accredited domain name registrar since 1999. Today, the company operates brands and divisions like Hover, Yummynames, and OpenSRS.