A hundred years from now, when my great-grandchildren are in their U.S. history classes, they'll learn about great capitalist barons and moguls that shaped the society and civilization they find themselves in. No, it's not Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie et. al, to which I refer, but Zuckerberg, Jobs and others who have and continue to reshape the ways we use the Internet and are amassing their fortunes because of it.
My great-grandchildren might also indulge in the luxury later generations are afforded and enjoy a good laugh, at our expense, over the accepted mentality of the time: Namely, that the Internet was, and should always be, a Utopian playing field for all mankind; one in which humans could find unfettered access and equal voice.
They'd be right to laugh at us, especially if we let this myth linger any longer.
For a better treatment on this, I refer you to Wired's piece "The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet," by Chris Anderson, which simultaneously examines: how more people are accessing information and content via apps, APIs and dedicated services than the World Wide Web; how those apps, APIs and dedicated services are walling in the supposed open range the Internet was thought to be; and how this change is just a natural, capitalistic evolution for the Internet.
"At the application layer, the open Internet has always been a fiction. It was only because we confused the Web with the Net that we didn’t see it," Anderson writes.
It's a good read, and I recommend you check it out. It was sent to me by a friend and former colleague, and prompted this e-mail exchange, which I think succinctly expresses my thoughts (apologies for the crude language. I prefer not to swear in my public writing; personal correspondence and conversation on the other hand ... ):
"Fascinating. I've been seeing a number of headlines in recent weeks touching on how Apps killed the Web browsing store, but that's the first I've read. Speaking of red: The "red" side gelled together a number of notions I think I've articulated in the past at my blog -- namely that this whole communal, everyone-is-equal mentality about the Internet is total Utopian bullshit. Hey, I want to believe in the Kumbaya-ness of it all, too, but when in history has any plane of human interaction and exchange NOT been subject to the manipulations of smart people looking to benefit themselves at the expense of others?"
Anderson writes in the article: "Openness is a wonderful thing in the nonmonetary economy of peer production. But eventually our tolerance for the delirious chaos of infinite competition finds its limits. Much as we love freedom and choice, we also love things that just work, reliably and seamlessly. And if we have to pay for what we love, well, that increasingly seems OK. Have you looked at your cell phone or cable bill lately?"
In my next post I'll share my friend's response to my comments above, and why I think this capitalistic evolution of the Internet portends a phoenix-like resurrection of flagging media brands.
[Updated Sept. 30, 2010 to add link to Sept. 27, 2010 post]