FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, November 04, 2005

Could the Web Be Built Today?

As the World Wide Web approaches its 15th birthday, Duke University law professor James Boyle ponders whether such an open set of communication protocols could be created today. Sadly, he thinks not.

Technology isn't the issue; Boyle believes that today's corporate and government interests would be too quick to crush such an ungovernable platform. The only reason the Web gained traction in the early '90s was that, back then, no one in authority was paying attention:

The web became hugely popular too quickly to control. The lawyers and policymakers and copyright holders were not there at the time of its conception. What would they have said, had they been? What would a web designed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation or the Disney Corporation have looked like? It would have looked more like pay-television, or Minitel, the French computer network. Beforehand, the logic of control always makes sense. “Allow anyone to connect to the network? Anyone to decide what content to put up? That is a recipe for piracy and pornography.”

And of course it is. But it is also much, much more. The lawyers have learnt their lesson now. The regulation of technological development proceeds apace. When the next disruptive communications technology – the next worldwide web – is thought up, the lawyers and the logic of control will be much more evident. That is not a happy thought.

And indeed, enough to give potential developers of the next open architecture pause...

Source: Financial Times