How to stimulate the open web

31 Aug

How to stimulate the open web

In macroeconomics they teach about stimulus. If you want the economy to grow, increase government spending. Print money, use it to hire people, hopefully to do productive work, that creates capital. Education, road building, renewable energy, these are all investments that a society can make that pays dividends in growth, efficiency and happiness, for a long time to come.

The Internet was such a creation. The US military made the initial investment, followed by universities. The result was a booming economy 40 years later. But now, a few years after that, the Internet is becoming owned by corporations, which are behaving as all corporations do. They’ve monetized the once public resource, and they’ve hired lobbyists, and their former employees are holding important government positions, overseeing their former employers. They’re locking themselves in. This is no longer the Internet we loved. But it’s not over yet, not if we invest in the open web.

Create systems that are ambivalent about the open or closed web. If I create a tool that’s good at posting content to Facebook and Twitter, it should also post to RSS feeds, which exist outside the context of any corporation. Now other generous and innovative people can build systems that work differently from Facebook and Twitter, using these feeds as the basis, and the investors will have another pile of technology they can monetize.

If you don’t like the way the algorithms in Twitter and Facebook work, then this is how to counteract that. Re-create the level playing field we used to have. Stimulate the open web. Give us something new to play with.

It isn’t “either/or” — it’s “and.”

The key point is this — in everything we do we must treat the open web as equal to the private networks. Maybe we don’t have to depend on the government to do this for us, maybe we can be a bit more systematic about encouraging the wild chaos of the open network, knowing that it leads to new tools and new opportunity to profit.

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