Why is the web unlikely? Prepare for a moment of geek-speak. For most of us, the web is reached by general-purpose computers that use open protocols - standards and languages that are owned by no one - to communicate with a network (there is no central point from which all data comes) whose mechanisms for transferring data are also open.James rightly points out that we can see the importance of that if we imagine its opposite, a web designed by commercial or government interests:
Why might we not create the web today? 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."Happy birthday for Sunday, dear Web, and God bless you, warts and all!
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.
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