in Waardevol

The pay per view internet

Storing a big chunk of the article for safekeeping. It’s one of the prophecies and I hate to see it disapear into the void of software updates and database failures.

For the record I think heis right on many accounts. Lets see what the future holds for the internet.

Access denied

Rafael Behr – 11 september 2005 – link

This is the golden age of the internet, a time of glorious anarchy where information is free and anyone, rich or poor, can blog their views to the world. But government and big business are moving in – the clampdown has started.

Jamie’s Big Voice gets readers from around the world, sometimes in their hundreds, sometimes in their thousands. He was invited to a party in Westminster where the Speaker of the House of Commons claimed to be a reader of the blog. That pleased Jamie. It could only happen now, early in the 21st century, the time when a homeless bloke with a borrowed computer can have the same reach around the world as Rupert Murdoch. It is a precious and fragile moment, a golden age of web democracy.

In an era whose triumphant idea is capitalism, where success is generally measured in the accumulation of wealth, it is hard to conceive of a parallel society established and self-governed on principles of trust and common ownership. But it exists. The biggest aggregation of human experience and knowledge ever created belongs to everyone, it is available on demand and it is free.

But for how long? Ranged against the new culture of digital freedom is a strange coalition of spooks, suits and vandals. There are governments unable to resist the technology that can track our every move; there are corporations lusting after the attention of the 2 billion eyeballs focused on screens; and there are the spammers, clogging up the net with junk mail, hijacking computers to peddle trash.

That is what makes the web a ‘pull’ medium. You make the show yourself, another reason why traditional media are flummoxed. They only know how to push stuff down the pipes. They keep building walls around the garden as fast as the web users breach them.

The goal must be to marshal the energy that bloggers currently expend on creating their own content into the consumption of industry-manufactured, pay-per-view content. Big Media want to retain the marketable frisson of Citizen Media and weed out the current culture of activism. The way to achieve this is by monopolising not only the copyright material that web users like to play with, but the tools that make it so easy for them to play.

Within 10 years, there will be no distinction between software companies, phone networks, search engines, movie studios and internet service providers. There will just be Web plc. To experience it, you will have to pay.

It is scarcely credible that, initially, all commerce was forbidden on the internet. Only gradually did the engineers and scientists running the hardware infrastructure of the net relax the rules. Last year, consumer trade online was worth $300bn.

Ours is the last generation that will remember the analogue world and feel the difference between the two realms. For the next generation of digital natives, the web will be a slick, commercial machine. It will be just as big as the world we currently live in and it will be just as ruthless and as corrupt.

I hope I am wrong. I listen to today’s web gurus, the people who preach freedom, and am fired with enthusiasm for the new digital society of the future. But I fear the odds are against them. An excess of idealism only seems to prove that the golden age of the web is, in fact, right now.


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