Since its creation, the internet and World Wide Web have been shaped by two competing and overlapping paths:

The #OpenWeb

Rooted in the DNA of internet code and culture, we see the web as a platform for collaboration, sharing, and the free exchange of information. Built for use in a world where information is abundant and free, embodying the ethos of “free as in free beer.”

The #OpenWeb emphasizes the : open source, open data, open standards, and open process. It walks the path of creativity and collective creation, and is closely associated with “native geek culture” alongside radical/anarchist libertarian thinking. Social interactions are visible, promoting accountability and collective decision-making. Examples include public forums, open-source projects, and community assemblies.

The #ClosedWeb

On the other side, we have the approach of companies like Microsoft under Bill Gates and late-stage Google, that focus on the monetization and commercial viability of the internet. This vision is fixated on control for profitability, and the economics of running online platforms in a world based on artificial scarcity

The #ClosedWeb pushes interactions to private, monetized paths with the illusion of privacy and confidentiality are necessary. This approach seeks to lock down information and interactions, creating walled gardens that can be controlled and monetized.

The Internet’s “native” Potential

The inherent democratization and egalitarianism of the internet allow people to create and share content. However, this ideal clashes with commercial interests that push for control to monetize user data and interactions.

From the #OpenWeb perspective:

  • Interconnectedness: Technology reflects human values and structures.
  • Empowerment: The internet empowers people to distribute their work, share ideas, and bypass traditional power politics gatekeepers.
  • Education and Information: The web transforms education and information access, linking vast resources to walking the path to a different society.

From the #ClosedWeb perspective, the dominant emotion is fear:

  • Fear of sustainability: Concerns about how to maintain and profit from online platforms.
  • Fear of losing control: Worries about people having too much freedom, undermining business models and #mainstreaming dogmas.

The Battleground for Openness

The #OpenWeb remains a battleground between the paths of openness and the pushing of fear. While it has democratized content creation and access, the economic models sustaining this ecosystem are often a toxic mess. This tension shapes society both online and offline, creating a complex and messy landscape to find a sustainable path.

The #GeekProblem

One barrier to addressing these issues is the #GeekProblem. On the web, those with technical expertise and control over resources bypass democratic processes and accountability, leading to a kind of “feudalism.” This problem is equally present in grassroots #FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) communities and corporate #dotcons (dot-com companies), as both share the same #geekproblem mindsets regarding control and authority.

A part of the #openweb path involves re-evaluating the relationship between control, wealth, power, and social change in both technology and wider society. Currently, we lack clear ways to discuss the “problem” in geek culture, making it difficult to mediate the #closedweb problem. This is a growing problem, as groups who succeed in a capitalism are the worst equipped to solve the problems that the system creates.

The struggle between these visions is ongoing. For the #openweb to thrive, there must be a concerted effort to address the underlying issues of control and power within both the open and closed paths. By acknowledging and working on these problems, we maintain the internet’s potential as a force for democratization, creativity, and the needed social change.

Please “don’t be a prat” about this, thanks.