An Open Web

You are the Battleground; It’s Your battleground.

The battle for the Web is a larger concern for all web users. This battle is not won nor fought on the global level. You are the battleground; it’s your battleground. Corporations and private interests are battling for your attention and focus, control and access. The near immaculate conception of the Open Web came from a place of ‘closed-ness’. The explosion of possibilities at the birth of the public internet in the mid to late 1990s began the fight for the open stable web, your web.

Since then, the initial waves of experimentation and growth have given way to corporate interests for sustaining and accessing your precious resources-attention and focus, time and money. However, the protocols, standards and software the web is built upon lower the transaction cost for you to both read and write what you want across the Internet. How you use your attention and focus, time and money, is your decision.

You, as an individual, are attempting to both read and write what you want on the web. Where are the lines of the battle? What rights do you have and how can you exercise your maximum potential?

The battle for the open web is not an abstract fight over ideas; it’s a fight so that you can control your technology and output. It’s about you controlling yourself. If you can’t control your browser, you can’t control the complete instantiation and clear transmission of your knowledge. If you can’t exercise control over your network services-the right to enter, leave and exit a service-you can not, with complete confidence, both access and transmit your knowledge.

We have excellent models for how network services, essentially web-based software, may be created since the largest marketshare for web browsers belongs to those powered by free and open source software, the combination of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari.1 Below the browser and desktop software layers, hidden as invisible stable infrastructure, the web is powered by free and open source software created by thousands of people around the world.

New threats have also entered this battle of openness in the form of inexpensive and abundant hardware, which is almost completely proprietary. This closed hardware has always existed, but as devices become more inexpensive and integrated, companies such as Apple are producing magical locked down devices, an accelerating integration of hardware and software, that won’t allow you to control yourself. Content must come from commercial online stores, and deeper access to devices is thwarted through proprietary technologies.

If you can’t control the software on your devices, the actual devices themselves, or the network services that are the applications on new mobile networked devices, you cannot win the battle for the open web. Your choice plays an enormous role in the future of the open web.

  1. Note however that only Firefox is completely open source. The core technology used by Chrome and Safari (WebKit) is open source, but Chrome is a proprietary wrapper (a fully open source version called Chromium, is available), and Safari is proprietary with the exception of its open core.^